as an individual experience.
There are four concepts defining attachment attributed to Bowlby’s work: “proximity maintenance,” “safe haven,” “separation distress,” and “secure base” (Hazan & Diamond, 2000). The authors note that these concepts may pertain both to childhood attachment, as well as to adulthood, where attachment is made with one’s mate. In the context of adult attachment, these four defining concepts bear two themes: reciprocity, in terms of both seeking and offering a safe haven and a secure base; and proximity, in that closeness is sought-after and that separation causes distress.
Attachment theory provides a framework for homeostasis in relationships
There is an inherent notion in attachment theory of caregiving, wherein
both parties in a dyadic relationship are integral beneficiaries.
Shaver and Hazan (1993)
consider the relationship between adult attachment and caregiving, citing Kotler’s (1985)
An overall score on measures of marital caregiving (total of both spouses) more
accurately predicted marital strength than other factors related to personality, family health status, or “marital circumstances” (p. 41). It would seem, based on these findings, that couples measure their relational strength most accurately through a sense of caregiving. Further, caregiving maintains a balanced sense of well being for these married couples, as providers and recipients of care.
There is much in the adult attachment literature regarding attachment styles. The styles are suggestive of ways that adults seek and respond to attachment bonds in their adult relationships. Ainsworth and her colleagues (1978) named three infant attachment styles based on Bowlby’s earlier work: “secure,…avoidant…and anxious/ambivalent” (cited in Simpson and Rholes, 1994, p. 182). Others have structured models of adult attachment based on these categories. Simpson and Rholes compare Ainsworth, et al.’s infant model to Bartholomew’s (1990) four adult attachment styles: “Secure” and “anxious/ambivalent” types are maintained in this model, but the “avoidant” type now has two subcategories of “fearful-avoidant” and “dismissive-avoidant,” (1994, p. 184). These attachment styles are considered key as to how these variously attached adults conduct their relationships, and the respective relational motivations of each type
(Simpson & Rholes, 1994).
Johnson and Whiffen (1999) describe attachment style as “…expectations and ways of perceiving and processing information and habitual responses formulated (through) past interactions with attachment figures” (p. 370). This echoes Bowlby’s “representational models” (1988, p. 29). These ideas support the notion that adult attachment styles are based on the working models adults have of both self and the significant, primary attachment figure.
Related research regarding adult attachment styles can be found in the literature as well. Frazier, Byer, Fischer, Wright and DeBord (1996) consider adult attachment style and choice of a partner; Mikulincer, Florian and Weller (1993) present their findings on attachment styles and coping strategies under severe stress. Caregiving and attachment style are examined in Carnelley, Pietromonaco and Jaffe’s (1996) study regarding relational functioning of both dating and married couples. Their numerous findings supported the notion that adult attachment style is a salient factor in predicting relationship functioning.