, Research Paper
Adult Attachment and Strategic Relational
Communication: Love Schemas and Affinity Seeking
According to attachment theory, the emotional bonds that infants form with their caregivers serve as the blueprints for the way people view themselves and others and they affect the way people act in their adult relationships, (Bowlby, 1982). John Bowlby was one of the first pioneers to advance on the attachment theory perspective. He was greeted with resistance and skepticism early on. Now, attachment theory concepts are widely known and accepted in developmental psychology, (West and Sheldon-Keller, 1994).
The article I’m critiquing involves attachment theory, the six love schemas and how they affect adult relationships. In this paper, I will be looking at those concepts through 4 sections: the literary review, the methods section, the results of the study, and the discussion section.
The main idea of this article, Adult Attachment and Strategic Relational Communication: Love Schemas and Affinity Seeking, is that attachment theory begins with attachment styles as an infant. It then begins to play with the idea that attachment theory is based on people’s positive or negative self-esteem. People who are secure are comfortable forming close and intimate relationships because they have positive beliefs about themselves and others. Dismissing and fearful types avoid intimate relationships because they have negative perceptions about themselves and others, (Bachman & Zakahi, 2000).
This conceptual framework is widely used to describe attachment theory and its sub-points. Those with an attachment theory perspective believe that the attachment system is an independent behavioral system, equivalent in function to other drive-behavioral systems such as feeding, mating, and exploration, (Sperling & Berman, 1994). According to West & Sheldon-Keller, most adults plan their lives on the basis of an anticipated future with a special other in the expectation of finding security in a permanent relationship. This places one of the emphases of attachment theory upon the search for security and implies that not all attachment relationships are secure. Consistent with this, West & Sheldon-Keller state that adults seek relational proximity to a particular person (just as children do) which, if found, promotes, enhances, and restores security. In general, the childhood origins of attachment styles should still be evident to some extent in adults, because the influence of parents or caregivers exerts itself in most people’s lives for many years, (Bowlby, 1980). In addition to intensity and security, the ease with which an individual develops attachment relationships appears to be quite important in discussing the correlation between how people form relationships from the beginning and why they are formed, (Sperling & Berman).
Past research by Hatfield and Rapson shows that they developed a unified theory of adult attachment that consists of six attachment styles they labeled love schemas, (Bachman & Zakahi). They also suggested that love schemas are based on two factors: the extent to which people are comfortable being emotionally close and their willingness to invest emotionally in a romantic relationship.
The six schemas are the secure types, the clingy types, the skittish types, the fickle types, the casual types, and the uninterested. These are the schemas that are learned from infancy on in accordance with how a person responds to their caregiver.
A lot of the authors researched for these critiques seem to agree with the study done by Bachman & Zakahi. There is much support for the six love schemas that are being utilized.
When thinking about attachment and loss, this research seems more than relevant, it seems vital. Adult attachment styles can be linked to loneliness and even depression. In all reality, studying adult attachment could lead to cures for depression and other such diseases.
According to past research done by Bartholomew and Horowitz, this particular hypothesis for the attachment theory perspective predicts that people with different love schemas will communicate in ways that reflect their predisposition towards being comfortable or uncomfortable with closeness and/or intimacy, (Bachman & Zakahi). The hypothesis seems to fit well with the conceptual framework because they both relate back to the caregiver. How the caregiver treats the infant or toddler and how that child responds back is a learned phenomenon that stays with the person into adulthood.
To elaborate, those scoring high on the secure and clingy attachment scales seem comfortable with closeness and are eager to be in relationships. Therefore, scores for secure and clingy types should be positively correlated with the different affinity seeking strategies. Those scoring high on the skittish, casual and uninterested scales are generally more comfortable with independence and less interested in relationships. Therefore, they should be less likely to engage in affinity seeking.
The hypotheses are as follows:
Hypothesis 1: Scores on the secure schema will be positively related to the likelihood of using affinity-seeking strategies.
Hypothesis 2: Scores on the clingy schema will be positively related to the likelihood of using affinity-seeking strategies.
Hypothesis 3: Scores on the skittish schema will be negatively related to the likelihood of using affinity-seeking strategies.
Hypothesis 4: Scores on the casual schema will be negatively related to the likelihood of using affinity-seeking strategies.
Hypothesis 5: Scores on the uninterested schema will be negatively related to the likelihood of using affinity-seeking strategies.
While Bachman & Zakahi came up with the 5 hypotheses above, they found it hard to propose a direst hypothesis for the fickle schema. They came up with a non-directional hypothesis instead.
Hypothesis 6: The fickle love schema will be related to the likelihood of using affinity-seeking strategies.
This is a reasonable number of hypotheses for the material being studied and these hypotheses are straightforward and simple to understand.
For each one of these hypotheses, there is no independent variable. It is believed that there are two dependent variables in each hypothesis: each of the different schemas and the likelihood of using the affinity-seeking strategies.
The conceptual definition of each of the schemas is as follows: the secure types are equally comfortable being close to their partners and being independent; clingy types are comfortable being close to their partners but uncomfortable being independent, causing them to be excessively dependant on their lovers; and the skittish types are uncomfortable with closeness but comfortable being independent, causing them to be overly self reliant. The fickle types are uncomfortable with both closeness and independence and seem to be torn between them. Those who hold a casual love schema may not have learned to balance intimacy and dependence. Finally, the uninterested are not at all concerned about being in close relationships. The love schemas were measured on the Love Schema Scale, which has been used in a number of other studies. It presents participants with short descriptions of each of the schemas and asks them how well it describes them.
The conceptual definition of affinity-seeking strategies is “The active social communicative process by which individuals attempt to get others to like and feel positive toward them” (Bachman & Zakahi, p. 13.). The affinity-seeking strategies were measured using Bell and Daly’s typology, which is a 25 item self report measure that uses a 7-point scale, (Bachman & Zakahi).
Initially, the study started with 399 college students; 170 men, 228 women, and one person did not indicate his/her sex. The average age of these students was 23.6 years. Of these students, 253 of them were currently in a relationship. All participants were undergraduates at a southwestern state university; enrolled in communication, sociology, or biology courses, and recruited on a voluntary basis. All of these participants were asked to complete a questionnaire and only those who were currently in a romantic relationship initiated within the last 12 months were included in this study. This method provided 117 respondents and included 43 males and 75 females whose mean age was 22.5 years old. This was a good way to perform this study because of memory issues. It would be hard to recall many details after a twelve-month period. The authors of the article said. “We realize that even a twelve month criterion is susceptible to memory distortion, but it is vastly superior to having no restrictions on time and seems to strike a reasonable compromise between the demands of sample size and memory” (Bachman & Zakahi, 2000, p. 14).
This was a good assortment of people to use for this study. The age group was early twenties, which means the participants weren’t too old to remember being a toddler. Not only that but using people who had just started relationships within the last twelve months was intelligent because the study is about using attachment styles from when a person is young to initiate a relationship. For that reason, a researcher wouldn’t use someone who hasn’t initiated a relationship somewhat recently.
The researchers used Hatfield and Rapson’s measurement of love schemas with the participants. This measure presents participants with short descriptions of each of the six love schemas. Each contributor was asked to indicate how well each of the schemas described him or her on a five-point scale ranging from “Never true of me” to “Always true of me”. Participants received a score for each love schema, which allowed the researchers to use correlational statistics to test the hypotheses.
The relational initiation strategies of affinity seeking were measured using Bell and Daly’s scale. This scale is a 25 item self report measure, which uses a 7-point scale. It uses the phrases “I never did this” and “I frequently did this”. Participants were instructed to recall the time they first met their partner and think about the approaches the used to initiate a relationship with that person.
The hypothesis stated that the first two love schemas, secure and clingy, would be positively related to affinity-seeking strategies. It was supported. The hypothesis stated that the last three, skittish, casual, and uninterested, would be negatively related to affinity seeking. It was also supported. The last hypothesis about fickle love schemas was not supported. The correlation between the fickle love schema and the affinity-seeking measure was not significant.
The authors main objectives for this study was to observe how the choices one makes when initiating a relationships correlate with the attachment styles learned at a younger age and also how the communication choices people make relate to love schemas. Other studies have been done on this topic and have come to the same conclusions. Levy and Davis assessed the links between attachment styles and love schemas. The only difference with their study was the use of different, but related schemas. They both focus primarily on conceptualizing love and attachment, on linking theories of attachment styles, and on establishing the prominent issues in attachment theory, (Cassidy and Shaver, 1999). The results of the study sustained the ideas that love schemas are related to how people initiate relationships. Bachman & Zakahi have recommended that future researchers put a greater limitation on the time that participants will have to recall the strategies they used. While the twelve-month period that they used was a good choice, maybe a six-month time frame would have been even better.
No study can be 100% accurate, even if the best researcher is on the job. There are always exceptions to every rule, and in this study one could say that not everyone who uses affinity-seeking strategies would score high or low in accordance with the hypotheses provided here.
Attachment theory is not a general theory of relationships, just as relationships don’t have general rulebook or to follow. There have been attempts to explain the relationships with which attachment theory deals, and of those attempts, Bachman & Zakahi did an excellent job in simplifying a study that otherwise might have been bewildering for the simple fact that attachment theory is a phenomena that may never be fully explained.
Bachman, Guy., & Zakahi, Walter. (2000). Adult Attachment and strategic Relational Communication: Love Schemas and Affinity Seeking. Communication Reports, 13, 11-19.
Bowlby, John. (1980). Loss. Basic Books.
Bowlby, John. (1982). Attachment. Basic Books.
Cassidy, Jude., & Shaver, Phillip. (1999). Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications. New York: The Guilford Press.
Sperling, Michael., & Berman, William. (1994). Attachment in Adults: Clinical and Developmental Perspectives. New York: The Guilford Press.
West, Malcolm., & Sheldon-Keller, Adrienne. (1994). Patterns of Relating: An Adult Attachment Perspective. New York: The Guilford Press.