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Developmental Differences in Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Use of Mothers, Fathers, Best Friends, and Romantic Partners to Fulfill Attachment Needs

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Adolescents and young adults (three age groups: 12–15, 16–19, and 20–28 years) reported their use of parents, and peers to fulfill attachment functions (proximity-seeking, safe haven, and secure base.) The use of each target figure varied with age and attachment function. Mothers were an important source of security across this age range. They were used as secure base consistently more than fathers or peers for all age groups, and regardless of whether or not participants had romantic partners; but were used less for proximity and safe haven by the two older groups. Best friends were used most and more than others as a safe haven; but were used less by young adults (vs. early adolescents) and by older adolescents with romantic partners. Romantic partners were used most and more than others for proximity; but were used less by early adolescents than by older participants. Fathers were selected less than other targets for all attachment functions. Those with romantic partners turned to them more than to others, and young adults selected their romantic partners as much as friends for safe haven. Those insecurely attached to mother turned to her less and to romantic partners more than did those securely attached. Implications for developmental changes in adolescent attachments are discussed.

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This research was completed with assistance from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Quebec Fonds FCAR.

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Correspondence to Dorothy Markiewicz.

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Professor of Psychology and Applied Human Sciences, Concordia University. Received PhD in social psychology from Ohio State University. Research interests include close interpersonal relationships and adjustment.

Received MA in social/developmental psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University. Research interests include attachment and well-being in adolescence

Received PhD in developmental psychology from Stanford University. Research interests include parenting, attachment, and adjustment in adolescence

Received BA in Psychology (Honors) from Concordia University. Research interests include romantic relationships in adolescence

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Markiewicz, D., Lawford, H., Doyle, A. et al. Developmental Differences in Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Use of Mothers, Fathers, Best Friends, and Romantic Partners to Fulfill Attachment Needs. J Youth Adolescence 35, 121–134 (2006).

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