If you’re in your 20s or 30s and feel insecure in your relationship, you’re not alone. The good news: it’s likely that things will get better, according to data gathered about people’s attachment styles in romantic relationships.
The adult attachment theory, developed in the 1980s by American ecologist Cindy Hazan and psychologist Phillip Shaver, sorts individuals into four categories by scoring them on just two traits: “avoidance” and “anxiety.” Avoidance refers to how willing you are to be vulnerable with your partner; anxiety refers to how much you worry about your partner paying attention to you.
The four categories:
- Anxious-preoccupied: High scores on anxiety and low scores on avoidance. These people are likely worriers who need to be regularly reassured that they’re loved, and can be overly dependent on their partners.
- Dismissing-avoidant: High scores on avoidance and low scores on anxiety. These people tend to hide their emotions and avoid intimacy.
- Fearful-avoidant: High scores on both. These people want closeness, yet tend to keep their feelings to themselves.
- Secure: Low scores on both. These people are perhaps the best-equipped to maintain a healthy balance between intimacy and independence. Recent research has shown that individuals who grade out as “secure” are most likely to be happy in their marriage.
Since it was introduced, attachment theory has been widely embraced. Therapists often use it to identify their clients’ relationship problems, and guide them through rough patches.
Although the theory seems to imply that if you aren’t “secure” you’re doomed for life, that may not be true. After analyzing data from the Open Source Psychometrics Project—which collected about 17,300 answers, from more than 100 countries, to an online survey between June 2012 and August 2013—Quartz found that this isn’t exactly the case. In fact, it seems that as we age, our relationship style tends to change, for the better.
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