Attachment style, social support, and psychological adjustment among the elderly

Jacqueline G. Lanier

Abstract

Elderly persons may experience significant changes in their lives, and adjustment to these various transitions has been related to the availability and utilization of social provisions. Specifically, individuals' positive perceptions of factors in social relationships such as intimacy, guidance, nurturance, and reassurance of worth has been related to higher self-esteem, well-being, physical health, and an internal locus of control. Because adequate social support appears to reflect a person's interpretation of receiving certain social provisions and may be influenced by past relationships with significant caregivers, attachment theory offers a viable avenue to examine the perception of self and others in relation to social support and adjustment in life. To date, there has been no examination of the elderly person's perceptions of self and others as related to social support. As a result, this study was designed to investigate the influence of attachments styles and social support of the elderly in relation to their self-reported psychological health. Conclusions of the study were that (a) the construct of attachment is applicable to persons in the later years of life; (b) working models of attachment appear to be a key component when examining an elderly person's capacity to utilize and access his or her social support system; (c) elderly persons with preoccupied and fearful working models may face more difficulties associated with challenges of old age; and (d) Bartholomew's model of adult attachment may be a viable conceptual framework for understanding the different ways persons may cope with growing older.