Bowlby (1988) noted that attachment studies had only been conducted on individuals up to age six years, although he cautiously supposed that attachment patterns were sustained into young adulthood. There is support both for the stability of attachment styles into adulthood (Hazan & Shaver, 1987), as well as the dissenting view holding that attachment styles seem changeable and are both context and relationally dependent (Baldwin & Fehr, 1995; Collins & Read, 1994; Simpson & Rholes, 1994).
Adult attachment, then, implies a reciprocal caretaking relationship, or the expectation of caretaking, considered to be crucial to an individual’s sense of well being. Threats and traumas to the adult attachment bond may be felt as challenges both to the survival of that sense of individual well being, as well as to relational stability.
Attachment injury is a construct that is relatively new to research scrutiny. Much of the literature about attachment injury notes markers of these events to be non-verbal, which are not relevant for this study, as they will not be observable with the data- gathering method used. There are, however, identifiable language markers that are shown in the literature, and are relevant to the purpose of this study.
Johnson (2002) discusses attachment injury in the context of relationship trauma. She describes her work with couples that could not experience therapeutic relief from distress, and resisted expressions of vulnerability. Johnson noted that seemingly insignificant events presented in therapy evoked roadblocks to continued work; once these roadblocks were revealed, they were expressed in the “…language of trauma…in life-and-death terms…of isolation and abandonment…(wherein)…the injured party would take a stance of ‘never again,’ refusing to risk becoming vulnerable to the other” (p. 183). This compelling description of the genesis and repercussions of attachment injury speaks to the difficulties in re-creating a safe environment in which the couple can become intimate.
Johnson (2002) describes the disorientation in the injured partner when attachment injury occurs or is re-experienced; she notes that the injured partner may even describe symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, including emotional numbness and hypervigilance. This would suggest that there is a process of sensitizing of the injured partner to cues or triggers salient in the experience of the attachment injury. It would also explain attachment injuries whose genesis occurs in prior relationships, but play a significant role in how the current relationship is experienced.
Johnson’s (1996) earlier work describes attachment injuries as “attachment betrayals or crimes” (p. 103). She considers the enormous significance of a seemingly small issue in the present, because it evokes the feelings related to a past experience of feeling abandoned, betrayed or rejected, either by the current partner or a past attachment figure.
The work presented by Johnson and Sims (2000) suggests that attachment injury may result from altered working models of the attachment figure. In other words, behaviors or expressed beliefs which one thought could be expected from an attachment figure now are rife with uncertainty and a sense of feeling unsafe. This works recursively