Adult Attachment and Differentiation of Self-Constructs: A Possible Dialogue?

  • J. LampisEmail author
  • S. Cataudella
Original Paper


Attachment theory and Bowen’s family system theory are theories focused on the central role of the family bonding in the development of the self and in the promotion of affective and relational regulation. The main objective of our study was to reflect on the dialogue between adult attachment and differentiation of self constructs and to explore if and in which measure romantic attachment styles depend on attachment bonding with parents or from differentiation of self processes. Involving a convenience sample of 350 participants, we administered a research protocol composed of the Differentiation of Self Inventory (Skowron, Schmitt in J Marital Fam Ther 29(2):209–222, 2003), the Experience in Close Relationships–Revised Scale (Fraley et al. in J Personal Soc Psychol 78(2):350–365, 2000) and the Parental Bonding Instrument (Parker et al. in Br J Med Psychol 52(1):1–10, 1979). Data revealed that the most important variables in predicting anxiety are emotional reactivity and low level of paternal care and that the most important variable in predicting avoidance is emotional cutoff. This study supports a possible integration of attachment theory and family systems theory.


Differentiation of self Family relations Parental bonding Romantic attachment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

We followed ethical guidelines in conducting the present research. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Participation in the study was voluntary, and the information provided was anonymous and confidential. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to participation in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pedagogy, Psychology, PhilosophyUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly

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