Title

Parental Bonding, Adult Attachment, and Differences In Affect Regulation

Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

William Lyddon

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

In this study differences in affects organized along four dimensions of contrast (positive affect, negative affect, affect directed toward self-enhancement, and affect directed toward contact and union with others) were examined among a sample of participants ( N = 100) as a function of either dominant parental bonding category (optimal, affectionate constraint, affectionless control, and absent/weak) or dominant attachment style (secure, preoccupied, dismissing, and fearful). Findings from this study were similar to those from previous research on emotion and attachment. Participants in the optimal bonding group and the secure attachment group reported the most positive affective experiences across all four dimensions of contrast, while participants in the affectionless control bonding group and the fearful attachment group reported the least positive experiences across all four dimensions of contrast. Participants in the dismissing attachment group reported significantly high levels of affect directed toward self-enhancement, and significantly low levels of affect directed toward contact and union with others, while participants in the preoccupied attachment group reported significantly high levels of affect directed toward contact and union with others. It is important to note that affective experiences also differed by caregiver gender (i.e., absent/weak paternal bonding was associated with significantly low levels of positive affect while absent/weak maternal bonding was associated with significantly high levels of affect directed toward self-enhancement). Unexpectedly, participants in the preoccupied attachment group did not report significantly high levels of negative affect and also did not differ from participants in the secure and dismissing attachment groups in affect directed toward self-enhancement. Possible reasons for these discrepancies are explored in the context of differing cognitive and affective working models, as well as differing manifestations of this style's parental care scores (high maternal care versus low paternal care) across gendered contexts. Differences were also noted in levels of paternal and maternal bonding across attachment styles. More specifically, (a) participants in the fearful attachment group reported significantly high levels of parental (maternal and paternal) overprotection, (b) participants in the dismissing attachment group reported significantly low levels of maternal overprotection, and (c) participants in the preoccupied attachment group reported significantly high levels of maternal care and significantly low levels of paternal care. The potential role these parental dimensions may play in the development of self and other working models is discussed.