Attachment in marriage: Predicting marital satisfaction from partner matching using a three -group typology of adult attachment style

A. Peter MacLean, Purdue University

Abstract

Current figures indicate that 50 percent of first marriages in the United States will end in separation or divorce within 20 years, with this figure reaching 67 percent for women who marry under 18 years of age (Bramlett & Mosher, 2001). Given the pernicious psychological and physical effects of disrupted marriages on adults as well as their children, it is of utmost importance for researchers and practitioners to try to understand this troubling phenomenon and to take proactive steps towards alleviating this modern tragedy. This study examined the relationship between marital satisfaction and partner matching using a three-group typology of adult attachment style. One hundred twenty-four couples completed questionnaires assessing marital satisfaction and attachment style. As predicted, wives and husbands with the highest marital satisfaction were in secure-secure attachment combinations whereas the most dissatisfied wives were in avoidant-avoidant combinations. The most dissatisfied husbands were in anxious-avoidant marriages. These findings were interpreted in terms of attachment theory. Marriages in which both spouses had secure attachment styles were likely to be happy because each individual was meeting his/her partner's attachment needs for comfort and security. In contrast, the highest levels of dissatisfaction for wives were reported in avoidant-avoidant marriages, presumably because both spouses' attachment needs were not being met due to their tendency to avoid proximity and not to develop a safe haven with their partners. Husbands were particularly influenced in a negative way by anxious-avoidant relationships, which typically led to increased withdrawal from the emotional demands of their wives and eventually from the marriage. The presence of children also harmed the marital satisfaction of husbands. It is likely that children took time away from the interactions between husbands and wives, and therefore men were not experiencing enough intimacy and emotional closeness in their marriages. Almost one-third of couples were found to have the rarely identified “ambivalent” and “indifferent” types of marriage. This finding supports the call for increased use of global, two-dimensional measures of marital quality, research that will help both to create sound measures of marital satisfaction as well as to advance theory development in the field. ^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Major Professor: Victor G. Cicirelli, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical

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