Adult attachment style and interpersonal distance

Attach Hum Dev. 2004 Sep;6(3):285-304. doi: 10.1080/14616730412331281520.


We tested for an association between adults' attachment style and their regulation of interpersonal physical distance. In Study 1, the stop-distance paradigm was used to derive measures reflecting tolerance of and reactiveness to spatial-intrusion. As predicted, university students who were classified as avoidantly attached (by a 3-category attachment style measure) were less tolerant of close interpersonal physical proximity than were securely attached individuals. Further, they were more reactive to spatial-intrusion by a male (but not a female) adult. In Study 2, we measured the distance that participants chose to sit from an interviewer. Participants' ratings on a 4-category measure were used to classify them into an attachment style and to derive measures of positive self model and positive other model. Results revealed that fearfully avoidant adults were distinguished by their choice of far interpersonal distances. Across subjects, the measure of positive self model made a unique contribution to choice of interpersonal distance, but the measure of positive other model did not. In summary, the data provide evidence of an association between adults' comfort with interpersonal emotional closeness (attachment style) and their comfort with and regulation of interpersonal physical closeness.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires