Journal of Family Violence

, 20:219 | Cite as

When Loving Means Hurting: An Exploration of Attachment and Intimate Abuse In a Community Sample

  • Antonia J. Z. HendersonEmail author
  • Kim BartholomewEmail author
  • Shanna J. Trinke
  • Marilyn J. Kwong


Intimate relationship abuse can be understood by considering two critical tenets of attachment. First, attachment fulfills a basic need for survival. Thus, the tenacity of the attachment bond is independent of relationship quality. Second, individuals whose attachment needs have been frustrated may strike out violently to regain proximity to the perceived loss of an intimate partner. We examined how individual differences in attachment were associated with women's and men's relationship abuse. A telephone survey assessed levels of psychological and physical abuse in 1249 Vancouver residents. Of these, 128 completed an attachment interview exploring their interpersonal relationships. Hierarchical regressions revealed that attachment variables contributed significant variance to prediction of both receipt and perpetration of psychological and physical abuse, with preoccupied attachment acting as an independent predictor. There was no evidence that gender moderated these associations. The findings suggest that attachment preoccupation in either partner may increase likelihood of abuse in couples.


intimate abuse relationship abuse adult attachment attachment behavior 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Simon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.University of ManitobaDauphinCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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