Adult attachment, developmental personality styles and interpersonal affect regulation

Alissa Rene' Sherry


This study explores the relationships between developmental personality styles and (a) adult attachment and (b) affect regulation. These variables were examined among a sample of participants (N = 273) using Bartholomew's (Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994) Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ), the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III), and an Interpersonal Affect Regulation Scale based on a method developed by Mikulincer, Orbach and Iavnieli (1998). In the first part of the study, adult attachment dimensions (secure, dismissing, preoccupied and fearful) were correlated using canonical correlation analysis (CCA) with the ten personality disorder scales on the MCMI-III (Avoidant, Paranoid, Schizotypal, Schizoid, Compulsive, Borderline, Antisocial, Narcissistic, Histrionic and Dependent). Findings indicated that the adult attachment dimensions were able to predict seven of the ten personality styles. These were Avoidant, Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal, Histrionic, Dependent, and Borderline. In addition, secure attachment was negatively correlated with all of these personality styles except for Histrionic. In the second part of the study, a second CCA was conducted between the MCMI-III personality disorder scales and the interpersonal affect regulation scores. Interpersonal affect regulation was assessed by first having participants generate 10 traits that describe themselves and freely recall four scenarios of previous relationships. These scenarios varied in terms of whether the relationship had a positive or negative impact on the participant and whether a positive or negative event occurred during the relationship. The participants were then instructed to generate 10 traits that described each of the people in each of these scenarios. Finally, the participants rated the extent to which they possessed each of the generated traits on a scale ranging from 1 (a little) to 4 (extremely). Results indicated that positive relationship, regardless of the valence of the event, were able to predict five of the personality styles: Avoidant, Dependent, Histrionic, Narcissitic and Obsessive Compulsive. Results suggested that adult attachment theory may be a viable model in which to conceptualize developmental personality styles, with only moderate support for the concept of interpersonal affect regulation and its relation to personality styles. The specific relationships between the attachment dimensions and the personality styles are discussed.