Methods of Assessing Attachment Styles

While the classification of attachment in infants is still conducted almost exclusively by means of the strange situation test, a variety of interviews and self-report measures are now employed to assess attachment styles in adults. The Adult Attachment Interview (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) is the most prominent example of the interview approach. Researchers needing measures that lend themselves to use with larger samples have developed self-report measures yielding various indices of attitudes and reactions in close, personal relationships.

Early examples of this method included the three-category approach of Hazan and Shaver (1987) and the four-category approach of Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991). Later developments of similar measures have departed from categorical assignment and allowed individuals to rate the degree of correspondence between themselves and each of the attachment style prototypes. These scores could then be combined to develop a more complex picture of individual differences in adult attachment styles.

An alternative innovation has been to construct multi-item self-report measures consisting of statements about oneself in relational contexts. This method improves the reliability of the measures, and the items are sorted according to various theoretical dimensions that have received support in factor-analytic studies. Extensive analyses performed on both categorical and dimensional measures of attachment (Fraley & Waller, 1998) supported the conceptual and empirical superiority of the dimensional approach.

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