Attachment theory has more recently been applied to the study of adult romantic relationships to help better understand how relationships evolve (Hirschberger et al, 2009). Hazan and Shaver (1987, p. 511) suggested that romantic love is itself “an attachment process (a process of becoming attached) experienced somewhat differently by different people because of variations in their attachment histories”. Attachment styles have been shown to be “reliably and meaningfully related to many aspects of adult relationships” (Kirkpatrick & Hazan, 1994, p. 124), and can be helpful in understanding differences in how adults experience relationships (Kirkpatrick & Hazan, 1994). Expressed in the context of adult relationships, attachment styles can be considered across two dimensions: “attachment-related anxiety” and “attachment-related avoidance” (Fraley, 2010). How people are rated on these dimensions (from low avoidance and anxiety to high avoidance and anxiety) places them into four categories, or styles, of attachment:
Secure: characterised by a feeling of worthiness or lovability, and a belief that other people will be generally accepting and responsive;
Preoccupied: characterised by a feeling of unworthiness or unlovability that, combined with a positive evaluation of other people, leads to the person striving for self-acceptance through achieving acceptance from others;
Fearful-Avoidant: characterised by a feeling of unworthiness or unlovability that, combined with a negative evaluation of other people, leads to the person avoiding close involvement with others in order to protect themselves from anticipated rejection; and
Dismissive-Avoidant: characterised by a feeling of love-worthiness that, combined with a negative disposition towards others, leads to the person avoiding close relationships and maintaining their independence to protect themselves from disappointment (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991).