This study searched for markers of attachment injury by exploring stepcouple relationships with individual respondents. The analysis also considered whether or not the markers were related to problems unique to stepfamilies.
Markers of Attachment Injury
Seven markers for attachment injury were examined in the interview data. These included: Irresolvable Problems; Betrayal of Trust; Questionable Partner Dependability; Change in Perception of Partner; Change of Belief About Partner; Abandonment; and Detachment. The final analysis combined several of these constructs, so that the markers for attachment injury were categorized as: Irresolvable Problems; Abandonment and Detachment; Change of Belief About Partner and Pivotal Events. Each marker category contained sub-categories, called descriptors, which were events or relational processes that respondents used to illustrate their relationships.
Summarized below are the markers for attachment injury and their descriptors:
Table 4.3 – Attachment Injury Markers and Their Descriptors
Change of Belief
Rejection of/by partner
Change in perception Change of heart Lying/Manipulation Dichotomous view
“Outsider” Pursue/withdraw Partner non-responsive Divorce/separation
Extreme language Arguments Pervasive/chronic
Rejection of/protect child Each respondent described some of the markers of attachment injury. Most of these markers occurred in a context specifically attributable to the stepfamily status. Every respondent mentioned either threat of, or actual, separation or filing for divorce, in the present relationship. In all but one case, the threats of divorce or separation were specifically attributable to stepfamily problems.
Table 4.4 - Respondents’ Descriptors for Markers of Attachment Injury*
Change in Belief About Partner ex-wife/re: children
Abandonment/ Detachment ex-wife/re: children
“old hurts” spouse filed divorce No discussion re:
reject/protect children spouse filed divorce No discussion re:
spouse filed divorce No discussion re:
spouse filed div. No discussion re: reconciliation
H left for a week
H left for a week
withdrawal of spouse
pursue/withdraw rejection of/by partner
H left for week
descriptors in bold type indicate “directly attributable to stepfamily status”