Attachment and loss: A test of three competing models on the association between attachment-related avoidance and adaptation to bereavement

  • Fraley R
  • Bonanno G
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It is widely assumed that emotionally avoidant or defensive individuals will have a difficult time adjusting to the loss of a loved one. However, recent research suggests that defensive individuals tend to adapt quite well to loss. Such findings pose a number of challenges to attachment theory--a theory that has traditionally held that emotional avoidance is indicative of poor psychological adjustment. In this article, the authors argue that contemporary models of individual differences in adult attachment allow the derivation of at least three competing hypotheses regarding the relationship between avoidant attachment and adaptation to loss. These hypotheses are tested using two-wave data on 59 bereaved adults. Results indicate that whereas some avoidant individuals (i.e., those who are fearfully avoidant) have a difficult time adapting to the loss of a loved one, other avoidant adults (i.e., those who are dismissingly avoidant) show a pattern of resilience to loss.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Attachment styles
  • Bereavement
  • Emotion regulation
  • Psychological defense

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