Advertisement

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
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

intimate abuse relationship abuse adult attachment attachment behavior 

References

  1. Archer, J. (2000). Gender differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychol. Bull. 126: 651–680.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Babcock, J., Jacobson, N., Gottman, J., and Yerington, T. (2000). Attachment, emotion regulation, and the function of marital violence: Differences between secure, preoccupied, and dismissing violent and non-violent husbands. J. Fam. Violence 15: 391–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartholomew, K. (1990). Avoidance of intimacy: An attachment perspective. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 7: 147–178.Google Scholar
  4. Bartholomew, K., and Horowitz, L. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 61: 226–244.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartholomew, K., Henderson, A. J. Z., and Dutton, D. G. (2001). Insecure attachment and abusive intimate relationships. In Clulow, C. (ed.), Adult Attachment and Couple Work: Applying the ‘Secure Base’ Concept in Research and Practise, Routledge, London, pp. 43–61.Google Scholar
  6. Bartholomew, K., Henderson, A. J. Z., and Marcia, J. (2000). Coded semi-structured interviews in social psychological research. In Reis, H. T., and C. M. Judd (eds.), Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology, Cambridge University Press, London.Google Scholar
  7. Bookwala, J., and Zdaniuk, B. (1998). Adult attachment styles and aggressive behavior within dating relationships. J. Soc. Pers. Relation. 15: 175–190.Google Scholar
  8. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and Loss: Vol. 2. Separation, Basic, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and Loss: Vol. 1. Attachment (2nd edn.), Basic, New York. (Originally published in 1969.).Google Scholar
  10. Bowlby, J. (1988). A Secure Base, Basic, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Browne, A. (1993). Violence against women by male partners: Prevalence, outcomes, and policy implications. Am. Psychol. 48: 1077–1087.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cappell, C., and Heiner, R. B. (1990). The intergenerational transmission of family aggression. J. Fam. Violence 5: 135–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crittenden, P. M. (1988). Relationships at risk. In Belsky, J., and Nezworski, T. (eds.), Clinical Implications of Attachment, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  14. Crittenden, P. M. (1992). Children's strategies for coping with adverse home environments: An interpretation using attachment theory. Child Abuse Neglect 16: 329–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dobash, R. P., Dobash, R. E., Wilson, M., and Daly, M. (1992). The myth of sexual symmetry in marital violence. Soc. Problems 39: 71–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Downey, G., and Feldman, S. I. (1996). Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 70: 1327–1343.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Downey, G., Feldman, S., and Ayduk, O. (2000). Rejection sensitivity and male violence in romantic relationships. Pers. Relation. 7: 45–61.Google Scholar
  18. Dutton, D. G., and Painter, S. L. (1981). Traumatic bonding: The development of emotional attachments in battered women and other relationships of intermittent abuse. Victimol.: Int. J. 6: 139–155.Google Scholar
  19. Dutton, D. G., and Painter, S. L. (1993). Emotional attachments in abusive relationships: A test of traumatic bonding theory. Violence Victims 8: 105–120.Google Scholar
  20. Dutton, D. G., Saunders, K., Starzomski, A., and Bartholomew, K. (1994). Intimacy-anger and insecure attachment as precursors of abuse in intimate relationships. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 24: 1367–1386.Google Scholar
  21. Follingstad, D. R., Rutledge, L. L., Berg, B. J., Hause, E. S., and Polek, D. S. (1990). The role of emotional abuse in physically abusive relationships. J. Fam. Violence 5: 107–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Griffin, D. W., and Bartholomew, K. (1994). Models of the self and other: Fundamental dimensions underlying measures of adult attachment. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 67: 430–445.Google Scholar
  23. Hazan, C., and Shaver, P. (1987). Conceptualizing romantic love as an attachment process. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 52: 511–524.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Hazan, C., and Zeifman, D. (1994). Pair bonds as attachments. In Cassidy, J., and Shaver, P. (eds.), Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications, Guilford, New York, pp. 336–354.Google Scholar
  25. Henderson, A. Z., Bartholomew, K., and Dutton, D. G. (1997). He loves me; He loves me not: Attachment and separation resolution of abused women. J. Fam. Violence 12: 169–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Holtzworth-Munroe, A., Stuart, G. L., and Hutchinson, G. (1997). Violent versus nonviolent husbands: Differences in attachment patterns, dependency, and jealousy. J. Fam. Psychol. 11: 314–331.Google Scholar
  27. Kesner, J. E., Julian, T., and McKenry, P. C. (1997). Application of attachment theory to male violence toward female intimates. J. Fam. Violence 12: 211–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kirkpatrick, L. A., and Davis, K. E. (1994). Attachment style, gender, and relationship stability: A longitudinal analysis. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 66: 502–512.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Kwong, M. J., Bartholomew, K., Henderson, A. J. Z., and Trinke, S. (2003). The intergenerational transmission of relationship violence. J. Fam. Psychol. 17: 288–301.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Landolt, M. A., and Dutton, D. G. (1997). Power and personality: An analysis of gay male intimate abuse. Sex Roles 37: 335–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Magdol, L., Moffit, T. E., Caspi, A., Newman, D. L., Fagan, J., and Silva, P. A. (1997). Gender differences in partner violence in a birth cohort of 21-year-olds: Bridging the gap between clinical and epidemiological approaches. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 65: 68–78.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Moffit, T. E., Caspi, A., Krueger, R. F., Magdol, L., Margolin, G., Silva, P. A., and Sydney, R. (1997). Do partners agree about abuse in their relationship? A psychometric evaluation of interpartner agreement. Psychol. Assess. 9: 47–56Google Scholar
  33. Morgan, H. J., and Pietromonaco, P. R. (1994). Disorganization of the Attachment System in Abusive Romantic Relationships. Paper presented at the 102nd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, August, 1994, Los Angeles, California.Google Scholar
  34. Morse, B. J. (1995). Beyond the Conflict Tactics Scale: Assessing gender differences in partner violence. Violence Victims 10: 251–272.Google Scholar
  35. Murphy, C. M., and O'Leary, K. D. (1989). Physical aggression predicts physical aggression in early marriage. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 53: 419–421.Google Scholar
  36. O'Hearn, R., and Davis, K. E. (1997). Women's experience of giving and receiving emotional abuse: An attachment perspective. J. Interpers. Violence 12: 375–391.Google Scholar
  37. O'Leary, K. D., Malone, J., and Tyree, A. (1994). Physical aggression in early marriage: Prerelationship and relationship effects. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 62: 594–602.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Pietromonaco, P. R., and Feldman Barrett, L. F. (1997). Working models of attachment and daily social interactions. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 73: 1409–1423.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Roberts, N., and Noller, P. (1998). The associations between adult attachment and couple violence: The role of communication patterns and relationship satisfaction. In Simpson, J., and Rholes, W. (eds.), Attachment Theory and Close Relationships, Guilford, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Scharfe, E., and Bartholomew, K., (1994). Reliability and stability of adult attachment patterns. Pers. Relation. 1: 23–43.Google Scholar
  41. Stets, J. E., and Straus, M. A. (1990). Gender differences in reporting marital violence and its medical and psychological consequences. In Straus, M. A., and Gelles, R. J. (eds.), Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, Transaction, New Brunswick, NJ, pp. 227–244.Google Scholar
  42. Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Boney-McCoy, S., and Sugarman, D. B. (1996). The Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2).J. Fam. Issues 17: 283–316.Google Scholar
  43. Tolman, R. M. (1989). The development of a measure of psychological maltreatment of women by their male partners. Violence Victims 4: 159–177.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations