Perceptions of Parental Bonding Behaviors as a Mediator Between Adult Attachment and Social Support

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William J. Lyddon

Advisor Department



Theoretical and empirical research supports a significant association between the constructs of adult attachment and social support in adulthood. The exact structural nature of this association has consistently eluded researchers. While some research supports adult attachment as a by-product of perceived social support, other data suggests that attachment patterns develop during infancy and subsequently influence social support perceptions in adulthood. This study investigated the structure of the relationships among adult attachment, perceived parental bonding behaviors, and perceptions of social support. Attachment research is reviewed and a model of adult attachment including two main components (attachment anxiety and avoidance ) is utilized to assess adult attachment. This study was designed to test the notion that perceived parental bonding is a subcomponent of adult attachment and precedes the development of social support perceptions. Perceived parental bonding behaviors were expected to mediate the relationship between adult attachment and perceived social support. Mediation was tested with a large sample ( N = 294) using both multiple regression analyses and structural equation modeling, to support regression results. Results suggested that two distinct patterns of mediation existed for each of the two components of adult attachment; each pattern included a specific grouping of components from each construct. Many of the expected relationships, while statistically significant, were relatively small. These findings suggest that adult attachment is a complex construct that may involve other components not included in this study. Implications of the findings are discussed with regard to future research, assessment, and application within a practice setting.