Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Human Development and Family Studies


The theory of attachment is a fairly recent approach to studying the relationship between romantic partners. Attachment theory was originally studied to explain the needs and behaviors between infants and their primary caregivers. The attachment style that infants have with their primary caregiver characterizes them throughout their entire lives. Three different styles of attachment have been described: secure, avoidant, and ambivalent. Secure individuals find it easy to get close to others. Avoidant individuals are nervous when people get too close. Ambivalent individuals want to get very close to others and are fearful of abandonment.

Various research studies suggest that attachment styles formed in infancy carry over into adulthood and have an effect on their internal working model. This can affect the level of marital adjustment that is experienced. Thus, the ability to be close to another individual in adulthood is influenced by very early attachment relationships. Attachment styles may effect levels of conflict, communication, and adjustment, which may in tum affect marital status. Attachment processes in adults may play an important part in couple and family therapy.

The purpose of this research was to discover if attachment styles in adults relate to marital status. The sample consisted of 196 low income mothers of one year old infants. The marital status of young mothers was compared to their adult attachment styles as measured by the Attachment Style Scales (ASS) questionnaire (Becker & Billings, 1997). The results were statistically significant that married mothers had attachment styles that were more secure (t = 3.10, p < .003) than divorced or separated mothers. Furthermore, ambivalent style was more common than avoidant style of insecure attachment among divorced/separated mothers. This research helps to suggest that attachment styles in adulthood influence romantic relationships and that it is a beneficial perspective in Marriage and Family Therapy.



Faculty Mentor

Thorana Nelson

Departmental Honors Advisor

Kim Openshaw