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Adult Attachment Theory Understanding the latest findings. Mark A. Young, Ph.D. Director of Marriage and Family Counseling Program. Having close connections is vital to every aspect of our health – mental, emotional, and physical. Hawkley – U. of Chicago

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adult attachment theory understanding the latest findings

Adult Attachment TheoryUnderstanding the latest findings

Mark A. Young, Ph.D.

Director of Marriage and Family Counseling Program


Having close connections is vital to every aspect of our health – mental, emotional, and physical.

  • Hawkley – U. of Chicago
      • Calculates that loneliness raises blood pressure to the point where the risk of heart attack and stroke is doubled.
  • House – U. of Michigan
    • Emotional isolation is more dangerous health risk than smoking or high blood pressure.

Case Western Reserve U.

    • Men with a history of angina and high blood pressure
    • Those who reported “no” to the question “does your wife show her love” suffered twice as many angina episodes during a five year period.
  • Women who have had a heart attack stand a threefold higher risk of having another if there was discord in their marriage.

Patients with congestive heart failure – the state of their marriage is as good a predictor of survival after four yeas as the severity of the symptoms.

  • Conflict with and hostile criticism from loved ones increase our self-doubts and create a sense of helplessness
    • These are classic triggers for depression
    • We live in a epidemic of anxiety and depression

The California Divorce Mediation Project reported that the most common reason given for divorcing given by close to 80% of all men and women was gradually growing apart and losing a sense of closeness, and not feeling loved and appreciated.

    • Severe and intense fighting were endorsed by only 40% of the couples.
what s the good news
What’s the good news?
  • Hundreds of studies now show that positive loving connections with others protect us from stress and help us cope better with life’s challenges and traumas.
  • Simply holding the hand of a loving partner can affect us profoundly
    • Research has found that this act literally calms jittery neurons in the brain.
what s the good news1
What’s the good news?
  • People we love are “hidden regulators” of our bodily processes and our emotional lives.
  • In 1939, women ranked love fifth as a factor in choosing a mate
  • By the 1990s, it topped the list for both women and men.
  • College students now say that their key expectation from marriage is “emotional security.”
does it effect the kids
Does it effect the kids?
  • High levels of conflict in a marriage often precipitate behavioral and emotional problems in children (depression).
  • Emotional distancing between parents also frequently leads to distancing from the kids.
    • This is especially true of fathers and their children
    • When men withdraw from their wives, they also often become unavailable to their children.
does it effect the kids1
Does it effect the kids?
  • When we feel securely attached to our partner, we tend to find it easier to be good parents.
  • Kids learn positive ways to deal with their emotions and connect with others.
  • Securely attached children are happier, more socially competent, and more resilient in the face of stress.
does it effect the kids2
Does it effect the kids?
  • Moms who are anxious and insecure about closeness, if they are married to responsive men who provide them with a safe connection, are able to be positive and loving with their kids.
  • When we love each other well, we help each other parent well.
does it effect the kids3
Does it effect the kids?
  • The idea that one of the best things you can do for your child is to create a loving relationship with your partner is not sentimental, it’s a scientific fact.
  • When we love our partner well, we offer a blueprint for a loving relationship to our children and their future partners.
signs to look for
Signs to look for?
  • Gottman’s research on patterns that predicts later divorcing:

1. An affectlessness, the relationship appears to be emotionally dead. There is no joy, no affection, no humor. They are unresponsive to one another.

2. People are like passing ships in the night. They miss each other, no connecting affectively. No passion. They are emotionally unavailable.

signs to look for1
Signs to look for?

3. They do not seem like close friends.

4. There is a lot of tension. There are low levels of negative affect, but they do not escalate.

5. They keep saying everything is okay, but they appear to not feel entitled to their complaints about the relationship

6. There is little attempt on the part of either person to soothe the other.

what creates close connections
What creates close connections?
  • No Connection
    • Lack of emotion
    • Unresponsive
    • Emotionally unavailable
  • Connection
    • Emotion is key
    • Are responsive to one another
    • Are emotionally available to one another
accessibility responsiveness
Accessibility & Responsiveness
  • Building blocks of a secure bond.
  • Partner can be physically present but emotionally absent.
  • Emotional engagement and the trust that this engagement will be there when needed is crucial.
  • When there is no engagement, no emotional responsiveness, the message reads “you don’t matter to me.”
accessibility responsiveness1
Accessibility & Responsiveness
  • Emotion is central to individuals being accessible and ‘emotionally’ responsive to one another
    • Any response, even anger, is better than none.
  • It is in our closest relationships where our strongest emotions arise and where they seem to have most impact
accessibility responsiveness2
Accessibility & Responsiveness
  • Emotion tells us and communicates to others what our motivations and needs are
  • They can be seen as the ‘music’ to the relationship dance
accessibility can i reach you
Accessibility: Can I reach you?
  • This means staying open to your partner even when you have doubts and feel insecure.
  • It often means being willing to struggle to make sense of your emotions so these emotions are not so overwhelming
  • You can then step back from disconnection and can tune in to your lover’s attachment cues.
responsiveness can i rely on you to respond to me emotionally
Responsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally?
  • This means tuning into your partner and showing that his or her emotions have an impact on you.
  • It means accepting and placing a priority on the emotional signals your partner conveys and sending clear signals of comfort and caring when your partner needs them.
  • Sensitive responsiveness always touches us emotionally and calms us on a physical level.
engagement do i know you will value me and stay close
Engagement: Do I know you will value me and stay close?
  • The dictionary defines engaged as being absorbed, attracted, pulled, captivated, pledged, involved.
  • Emotional engagement means the very special kinds of attention that we give only to a loved one.
  • We gaze at them longer, touch them more.
  • Often we talk of this as being “emotionally present.”
close connections
Close Connections
  • In these moments of safe attunement and connection
    • Both partners can hear each other’s attachment cry and respond with soothing care,
    • Forging a new bond that can withstand differences, wounds, and the test of time.
close connections1
Close Connections
  • Often found in small moments of time
    • Its in these moments of safe connection that change everything
    • They provide a reassuring answer to the question “are you there for me”
    • Once partners know how to speak to their need and bring each other close, every trial they face together simply makes their love stronger.
close connections2
Close Connections
  • These moments of connections create new patterns in the relationship – a new dance
  • If you know your loved one is there and will come when you call, you are more confident of your worth and your value.
  • The world is less intimidating when you have another to count on and you know that you are not alone.
two main processes
Two Main Processes
  • Vulnerability  Compassion
    • One becomes vulnerable and the other responds with compassion.
  • Vulnerability  Vulnerability
    • One becomes vulnerable and the other responds with becoming vulnerable as well.