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Love and School: Attachment/Exploration Dynamics in College Jeffery E. Aspelmeier Radford University Department of Psychology Introduction Attachment theory.

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Presentation on theme: "Love and School: Attachment/Exploration Dynamics in College Jeffery E. Aspelmeier Radford University Department of Psychology Introduction Attachment theory."— Presentation transcript:

1 Love and School: Attachment/Exploration Dynamics in College Jeffery E. Aspelmeier Radford University Department of Psychology Introduction Attachment theory has often attempted to explain the link between the quality of close relationships and exploration of the social and physical environment. A variety of studies have related the lack of a secure base to inhibition of exploration in several different contexts. Insecure attachment has been linked to lower curiosity scores (including less time spent exploring, manipulating fewer objects, and engaging in fewer repeated manipulations; Arend, Gove, & Sroufe, 1979); shorter bouts of exploration, less intense exploration, less positive affect while exploring, and interacting with a puzzle box for shorter periods of time (Main, 1983); and a decrease in time engaged in self initiated locomotor exploration of a play house (Hazen & Durrett, 1982). However, only recently has attention been directed toward attachment/exploration dynamics in older populations. Attachment in adulthood has been associated with approach to work activities (Hazan & Shaver, 1990); individual difference in curiosity and cognitive closure (Mikulincer, 1997); and with novelty seeking and impulsivity (Johnston, 1999). The present paper reports two studies that extend previous work by evaluating attachment/exploration dynamics in a college setting and evaluating exploration with a behavior based observational measure. It was hypothesized that secure attachment would be associated with fewer academic worries and more exploration of the physical environment, dismissing/avoidant attachment would be associated with less comfort collaborating on academic tasks, preoccupied attachment would be associated with difficulty focusing on academic tasks, and fearful attachment would be associated with having more worries about academic performance. Method Study 1 In Study 1, 200 psychology students (113 females and 87 males) completed the Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) four item measure of attachment, which provides magnitude indices of security, dismissing avoidance, preoccupied attachment, and fearful avoidance. Also participants completed Simpon’s (1990) 13 item measure, which assesses two dimensions of Avoidant vs. Secure, where a high score indicates greater avoidance, and Anxious vs. Non-anxious, where a higher score indicates greater anxiousness. Further, to tap exploration, participants completed a 52 item author constructed measure of college exploration assessing four areas of exploration (academic performance anxiety, unfocused academic approach, social approach to tasks, and curiosity). Study 2 In Study 2, 69 psychology students (36 female and 33 male) completed the same measures as in study 1, with the inclusion of two observational behavior based measures of exploration. The first task (ostensibly unrelated to the study) provided participants an opportunity to explore challenging puzzle games which was unobtrusively videotaped. Video data was coded for total manipulation time, tempo of exploration, perseverance, and involvement (See Table 1). Inter-rater reliability was high. The second task measured information search by assessing the number of descriptions of potential dating partners that participants exposed themselves to. Results As shown in Table 2, the results of both studies support our hypothesis that different attachment styles foster differences in exploration at college. Security ratings were associated with having a positive view of working with others and seeking assistance from others on academic tasks and reporting greater curiosity. Preoccupation ratings were associated with having more anxiety about performing academic activities. Fearfulness ratings were associated with reports of having more worries about one's current academic performance, having a negative view of working with others and asking others for assistance, and reporting less curiosity (though only for Study 1). Interestingly, dismissiveness ratings were not associated with any of the exploration scales. With respect to the Simpson (1990) attachment scales, greater security was associated with a more positive view of working with others and asking others for assistance, and reporting more curiosity. Greater anxiety was associated with more worries about academic performance, a more unfocussed approach to academic work, and a negative view of assistance seeking and working with others. In Study 2, a significant interaction between sex and the main variables of interest was found, analyses for males and females were performed separately. Table 3 displays the partial correlations between the observational exploration measures, the RQ attachment ratings and the attachment scales (avoidant/secure and anxious/non-anxious) with age as a covariate. Of the RQ ratings, only dismissiveness was associated with the exploration observations. For males, greater dismissing ratings were associated with spending less time manipulating the puzzles, a faster tempo of manipulation, less perseverace in manipulating the puzzles, showing less sophisticated interactions with the puzzles, and looking at fewer descriptions of potential dating partners. For females, greater dismissiveness was associated with looking at fewer descriptions of potential dating partners. With respect to the attachment scales (Avoidant/Secure and Anxious/Non-anxious), correlations were only significant for males. Greater Avoidance/Security scores were associated with a faster tempo of manipulation and less perseverance on manipulation of the puzzles. Also, avoidance was marginally associated spending less time manipulating the puzzles and showing less sophisticated interactions with the puzzles. For the Anxious/non-Anxious scale, greater anxiety was associated with a faster tempo of exploration and looking at more descriptions of potential dating partners. Conclusion In conclusion, most of the literature on adult attachment styles has focused on documenting the implications of attachment for romantic relationships. The present studies, along with Hazan & Shaver (1990) and Mikulincer (1997), are important for demonstrating that attachment theory can aid in understanding how attachment style plays a role in facilitating exploratory behavior in non-relationship contexts. Further investigation of this aspect of adult attachment theory is clearly warranted and could greatly improve our understanding of how love shapes our perceptions of the social and physical world. This line of research could be extended by identifying more specific mechanisms (e.g. esteem- maintenance processes and affect regulation strategies) that explain why and how insecure attachment leads to less exploration of the social and physical world. References Bartholomew, K. and Horowitz, L. M. (1991), Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four- category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), Hazan, C. and Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(3), Hazan, C. and Shaver, P. R.(1990). Love and work: An attachment-theoretical perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(2), Hazen, N. L., & Durrett, M. E. (1982). Relationship of security of attachment to exploration and cognitive mapping abilities in 2-year-olds. Developmental Psychology, 18, Johnston, M. A. (1999). Influences of Adult Attachment in Exploration. Psychological Reports, 84, Main, M. (1983). Exploration, play, and cognitive functioning related to infant-mother attachment. Infant Behavior and Development, 6, Matas, L., Arend, R. A. and Sroufe, L. A. (1978). Continuity of adaptation in the second year: The relationship between quality of attachment and later competence. Child Development, 49, Mikulincer, M. (1997). Adult attachment style and information processing: Individual differences in curiosity and cognitive closure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(2), Simpson, J. A. (1990). Influence of attachment styles on romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(5), Table 2 Correlations Between RQ Ratings and Exploration Factors (For Study 1 and Study 2) Controlling for Age and Sex. _ Academic Unfocused Social _ Perform. Anxiety Academ. Appr. Approach Curiosity _ Study 1 Secure-.13^ ***.22** Preoccup..27*** ^.08 Dismiss Fearful.26*** *-.18** Avoid/Secure ***-.26*** Anx/Non-Anx.16*.30***-.18*-.11 Study 2 Secure-.31* ***.23^ Preoccup..32** *-.17 Dismiss ^ ^ Fearful.30* **-.12 Avoid/Secure.36** *-.12 Anx/Non-Anx.50*** ***-.17 _ Note: Study 1 df = 196. Study 2 df = 67. ^ = p <.10; * = p <.05; ** = p <.01; *** = p <.001 ABSTRACT Two studies tested the hypothesis that secure attachment facilitates exploration at college. In Study 1, 200 undergraduates completed self-report measures of attachment and exploration. In Study 2, 69 undergraduates completed these same measures, and two tasks that measured exploratory behavior. Attachment styles were differentially related to self-reports of exploration (e.g. secure attachment was related to curiosity and information search, while preoccupied attachment was related to anxiety about academic performance). Gender differences were found in exploratory behavior. For males, dismissiveness and general insecurity were correlated with low levels of exploration of novel objects and relationship information. Anxiousness was correlated with low levels of exploration of novel objects and high levels of exploration of relationship information. For females, dismissiveness was correlated with low levels of exploration of relationship information. Table 3 RQ Attachment Rating and Attachment Scale Partial Correlations with Exploration Observation Measures, Separate by Gender _ RQ Ratings Simpson Scales _ Exploration Measures Secure Dismissing Preoccupied Fearful Avoidant/Secure Anxious/Non-anx._ Males Total Manipulation * ^-.11 Tempo **-.38* Perseverance ** **-.22 Involvement * Information Search * ** Females Total Manipulation Tempo Perseverance Involvement Information Search * _ Note: For males df = 30. For Females df = 33. Age included as a covariate for all analyses. Table 1 Coding Schemes for Puzzle Manipulation Observations TempoRate of moving from toy to toy (Total Contact Time with objects) / (# of Act Changes). Perseverance Estimated using mean of two longest uninterrupted object contacts. Curiosity : Qualitative Coding (inter-rater reliabilities, r =.99) 1. No Inspection: Minimal looking & no touching 2. Visual Inspection : Sustained Looking & no touching 3. Minimal Contact : Looking & brief touching of few items (3 or less) gross motor manipulation only. 4. Contact with Minimal Involvement : Look at & touch 4 + items, for purpose of identification (Gross motor activities: marked by changing the proximity of the object). 5. Contact with High Involvement : Look at & touch items, manipulate to identify function (e.g identify solution to puzzle: marked by Fine motor Manipulation) &/or extended manipulation of puzzle in effort to solve puzzle. (Employing multiple fine and gross motor strategies)


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