Adult attachment in a nationally representative sample

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Nov;73(5):1092-106. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.73.5.1092.


The explosion of adult attachment research in the last decade has been limited by its reliance on college student and distressed samples. Using a large nationally representative sample of American adults, the authors examined the relation of sociodemographics, childhood adversity, parental representations, adult psychopathology, and personality traits to adult attachment in an effort to replicate previous findings and extend the theory. Distribution of adult attachment styles was similar to that in prior studies: 59% secure, 25% avoidant, and 11% anxious. Adult attachment was associated with several sociodemographic variables (e.g., income, age, race) not previously studied. Childhood adversities of an interpersonal nature were strongly related to insecure adult attachment. Various types of adult psychopathologies and personality traits were also strongly related to adult attachment. Implications for adult attachment theory and future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety, Separation / psychology
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment*
  • Personality Development*
  • Personality Inventory