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Adolescent Attachment to Parents and Peers

Andrea L. Barrocas
The Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life
Working Paper o. !"
Attachment #onds e$ist in relationships across the lifespan. Adolescence may #e
a particularly crucial period for attachment relations. As relationships %ith parents shift
and those %ith peers gain importance' patterns of attachment may change as %ell. There
is a huge gap in the attachment literature on the utili(ation of mother' father and peers
attachment figures' specifically ho% attachment to parents relates to that %ith peers and'
importantly' ho% adolescents are attached to their fathers as compared to their mothers.
This study e$plores these patterns of attachment in adolescence. T%enty)four racially
di*erse' mostly middle class adolescents+ ,grades eight and ten-' mothers+ and fathers+
attachment %as measured using the .n*entory of Parent and Peer Attachment ,.PPA-
/uestionnaire. 0*erall' adolescents rated attachment to mother and father similarly'
suggesting generali(ation of attachment representations' #ut they rated attachment to
peers' especially on the communication dimension' higher than to parents' suggesting a
rise in the importance of peers. .mplications of these findings for adolescent attachment
relationships are discussed.
Adolescent Attachment to Parents and Peers
Adolescence is a ma1or transitional period in a person+s life. With the onset of
pu#erty come not only physical changes' #ut also many other important changes. 2or
e$ample' the social %orld of an adolescent changes to #ecome more peer focused than
#efore. 3o%e*er' parents do not disappear from the daily life of an adolescent.
Therefore' a ma1or task of adolescence is to figure out %hich people can help satisfy %hat
need. Attachment theory may #e helpful in understanding some of the patterns that e$ist
across the transition to adolescence. 4pecifically' this pro1ect %ill use attachment theory
to understand the relationships that adolescents ha*e %ith their mother' father and peers.
Attachment Theory
Attachment theory originated as an e$planation of the #ond that e$ists #et%een an
infant and the primary caregi*er' typically the mother ,Bo%l#y' &566-. This #ond not
only is important for general %ell #eing ,e.g. 7reppner 8 9llrich' &556- #ut also
functions as a template for all relationships across the lifespan ,e.g. Waters' Merrick'
Tre#ou$' Cro%ell' 8 Al#ershein' :"""-. As early as infancy' children can mentally
represent their attachment figures and construct ideas and e$pectations for relationships
%ith #oth these original figures and others. Bo%l#y called this the internal %orking
model of attachment.
Attachment in infancy is conceptuali(ed as distinct #ut integrated #eha*iors that
are e$hi#ited #y the infant in response to the caregi*er+s #eha*iors. There are three
attachment related #eha*iors
that define ho% attachment is seen across the lifespan;
pro$imity seeking ,pro$imity maintenance-' separation protest' and secure #ase ,3a(an 8
4ha*er' &56<= 4egrin 8 2lora' :""!-. Pro$imity seeking descri#es the physical closeness
of infants to their caregi*er. 4eparation protest refers to the un%illingness to separate
from the caregi*er' %hich is translated through #eha*iors such as crying. When an
attachment figure is a child+s secure #ase' he or she is utili(ed as a foundation from %hich
to e$plore the en*ironment and seek out non)attachment related pursuits. Related to the
secure #ase phenomenon is the idea of an attachment figure #eing a safe ha*en #ecause
of representations of the attachment #ond. Representing an attachment figure as a safe
ha*en' conse/uently' means that the infant goes to the caregi*er %hen distressed or in
need of comfort or support' thus using the attachment figure as a secure #ase.
Individual Differences. Early attachment theorist Mary Ains%orth e$plained
attachment #eha*iors in infancy as an organi(ational construct' one that relies on the
/uality of the primary caregi*er+s ,typically the mother- response to the infant+s
#eha*iors that then influence the infant+s responses and interactions ,see 4roufe 8
Waters' &55<-. >ifferences in reactions and interactions lead to indi*idual differences in
the infant+s security. 2or e$ample' mothers %ho respond in a sensiti*e manner to their
infants ha*e infants %ho think they %ill #e taken care of ,for more on this topic see
7aren' &55?-. More specifically' in mother)infant interactions of this type' the infant
learns that the mother is a steady and secure person to go to for comfort. .n other %ords'
the mother is percei*ed as a secure #ase for the infant. Therefore' it %as thought that
there %ould #e differences in ho% infants respond to and process caregi*ers+ #eha*iors'
and that infants %ould sho% differences in their o%n #eha*iors as %ell.
Ains%orth de*eloped a %ay to measure indi*idual differences in a testing
situation called the 4trange 4ituation. .n the 4trage 4ituation' the infant and mother
interact' generally in some form of play' and the infant is allo%ed to e$plore the
surroundings ,for more detail see 4roufe 8 Waters' &55<-. The mother then lea*es the
room and the infant is alone. At this point' in most cases' a non)familiar adult enters.
2ollo%ing this' there is a reunion of mother and infant. 0#ser*ing each point of change
in the 4trange 4ituation can help e$plain the security of the infant in*ol*ed #y looking at
the le*els of stress and comfort that the infant and mother e$hi#it.
Children are classified in three
categories according to their #eha*iors during
reunion episodes; secure' an$ious)a*oidant and an$ious)am#i*alent. A secure infant
seeks comfort from the caregi*er #ecause of representations that the caregi*er has #een
and can #e used as a secure #ase' and e$plores the en*ironment %ith ease ,3a(an 8
4ha*er' &55?-. An an$ious)a*oidant infant does not sho% distress during the separation
and upon reunion %ith the caregi*er a*oids contact due to conflicting representations of
the caregi*er ,3a(an 8 4ha*er' &55?= Waters' 3amilton' 8 Weinfield' :"""-. An
an$ious)am#i*alent infant seeks the comfort of the caregi*er' yet is not soothed upon
reunion ,3a(an 8 4ha*er' &55?-.
Stability of Attachment Over Time. Attachment researchers ha*e e$amined
attachment #eyond infancy. Rather than looking at attachment #eha*iors' ho%e*er'
researchers ha*e looked at attachment representations. .t is thought is that one creates
mental representations of ho% to interact %ith others' termed the internal %orking model
of attachment' #ased on pre*ious attachment related relationships and interactions.
Bo%l#y ,&566- #elie*ed that starting in infancy a child internali(es patterns of relating to
people' generally the parents' and forms an idea of ho% to relate to others #ased on these
representations. Through early interactions %ith caregi*ers' children internali(e and
organi(e their understanding of relationships ,Laursen 8 Collins' :""?-. Each
attachment relationship shapes the child+s mental schema and leads to the de*elopment of
e$pectations for future relationships and interactions.
A #asic tenet of attachment theory is that it is sta#le o*er time' ho%e*er research
yields mi$ed findings. Longitudinal studies ,e.g. 3amilton' :"""= Walters' 3amilton' 8
Weinfield' :"""- measured #oth infant attachment security status using the 4trange
4ituation and later attachment in adulthood. Researchers found strong retention rates in
classification of attachment. .n other %ords' for most indi*iduals there %as continuity of
attachment= ho%e*er' insta#ility and change in attachment classification for those %ho
did change %ere e$plained #y significant life e*ents. There %as *ery little change in
classification occurring for those %ho did not ha*e significant life e*ents ,e.g.
Easter#rooks' &565= 3amilton' :"""= Walters et al.' :"""-. Thompson ,:"""- argues that
security of attachment %ill remain sta#le only if other aspects of life that are related to
attachment remain sta#le across transitions. 3e states' specifically' that if /uality of
parental care is sta#le and de*elopment of solid self)concept and self)esteem occur' one is
likely to remain securely attached to others.
0n the other hand' yet still supporting Thompson+s argument' some researchers
found that attachment is not sta#le. 2or e$ample' Le%is' 2eirin' and Rosenthal ,:"""-
found no relationship #et%een attachment security status in infancy and adolescence. .n
the study' classification changed for a#out half of the participants. .n addition' di*orce
%as a huge mediating factor for change in attachment status' sho%ing that the internal
%orking model of attachment can #e changed due to attachment related e$periences.
Thompson+s ,:"""- argument supports these findings #ecause of his #elief that security
can remain sta#le if there is sta#ility in relationships and /uality of care' #ut inter*ening
occurrences that change these factors can cause security to shift. These findings suggest
that ne% e$perience #uilds upon pre*ious e$periences to create fle$i#le representations of
ho% relationships are e$pected to #e.
Stability of Attachment Across Caregivers. A related issue is the concordance of
attachment' defined as the sta#ility of attachment #et%een attachment figures ,i.e. mother'
father' peer' si#ling-. Research on the concordance of children+s+ attachment to mother
and father focuses primarily on relationships during infancy. 4uch studies sho% mi$ed
findings. 4e*eral point to%ard strong concordance #et%een attachment to mother and
father ,e.g. Easter#rooks' &565- and others suggest that the mother)infant and father)
infant attachment relationships are independent ,Main 8 Weston' &56&-. Easter#rooks
,&565- found a rate of <"A concordance #et%een the attachment relationships that :"
month)old infants had %ith their mothers and fathers' %hich strongly supports the notion
of concordance. 0ne e$planation for the strong rate of concordance is that parents %ho
are more similar in childrearing approaches' such as sensiti*ity and a*aila#ility' %ill ha*e
children %ho are attached similarly to #oth parents.
More importantly' in an analysis of && studies of attachment that measure
classification %ith Ains%orth+s 4trange 4ituation' 2o$' 7immerly' and 4chafer ,&55&-
found o*erall support for concordance of attachment to mother and father= those infants
%ho %ere securely attached to their mother %ere more likely to #e securely attached to
their father ,the same patterns %ere found for insecurity-. These findings suggest that
children do internali(e representations of relationships and attachments and form
e$pectations for other close relationships. 0n the other hand' some of the studies
e$amined suggested a lack of concordance of attachment #et%een caregi*ers ,2o$'
7immerly' 8 4hafer' &55&-. 2or e$ample' Main and Weston ,&56&- found that mother)
infant and father)infant attachment %ere not dependent on one another. They argue that
all relationships are different. Although mother)infant and father)infant relationships do
interact %ith one another' mothers and fathers each ha*e specific %ays of raising and
relating to their children. To date' concordance has only #een e$amined in infancy and
early childhood' lea*ing concordance of attachment in adolescence as yet une$plored.
Because of the de*elopmental changes that occur in adolescence' this period seems to #e
one in %hich it is important to look at ho% attachment to each figure is related.
Adolescent Development
Adolescence is a period of significant cogniti*e' social and #eha*ioral transitions.
Cogniti*ely' there are huge gains in reasoning and perspecti*e taking skills' as %ell as
ac/uisition of #etter emotional understanding. 4ocially' peer relationships #ecome much
more important than #efore. Physically' pu#erty #egins' sparking hormonal and physical
changes. The de*elopmental changes that occur in early adolescence are related to one
another. .mportantly' they impact the desire for a more independent and autonomous life
that comes %ith adolescence. .t is during this stage that an indi*idual de*elops a more
mature sense of identity ,Erikson' &5B6- #ecause of such ad*ances in #eha*ioral' social
and cogniti*e realms ,3a#ermas 8 Bluck' :"""-. 2or e$ample' a#stract thinking allo%s
for ne% thoughts related to identity ,e.g. CWho am .DE CWhat do . likeDE CWho do . stri*e
to #eDE-' %hich is one of the main transitions to adolescence= ho%e*er' it is /uestiona#le
ho% much this affects the parent)child relationship in adolescence ,Collins 8 Repinsky'
&55?-. These social de*elopments ha*e the most significant implications for adolescent
attachment' although the #iological and cogniti*e changes are important as %ell.
Parent-Adolescent Interactions. The greatest markers of de*elopmental changes
in the self in adolescence are seen through independence' autonomy and detachment from
caregi*ers ,Erikson' &5B6= Ryan 8 Lynch' &565-. Ryan and Lynch ,&565- found that
adolescents stri*e for more autonomy and indi*iduation from parents than #efore period
of de*elopment and there is a higher le*el of detachment from parents. Collins and
Repinsky ,&55?- note that the amount of physical time that parents and their children
spend together decreases during adolescence as %ell. Although there is o#*ious physical
distancing from parents' adolescents still sho% a desire for high le*els of support from
them ,2urman 8 Buhrmester' &55:= oller' &55?-. Representations of interactions %ith
parents may' then' pro*ide a support #ase for adolescents.
3ill' 2onagy' 4afier' and 4argent ,:""@- state that communication in the family
must #e' in the %ords of 4egrin and 2lora ,:""!-' synchroni(ed and reciprocal for optimal
attachments #et%een family mem#ers. 2amily 4ystems Theory states that there are
smaller dyadic interactions that are separate from one another' #ut that also function
%ithin the larger family unit ,Caffery 8 Erdman' :"""= 3ill' 2onagy' 4afier' 8 4argent'
:""@= 7reppner' :"":= 4egrin 8 2lora' :""!-. Accordingly' as adolescents de*elop and
#egin to search for autonomy and independence' there must #e a response to this change
#y the family as a %hole. oller ,&55?- notes that families %ith adolescents are
constantly and increasingly renegotiating family roles that are #uffered #y open and
fle$i#le communication. .n addition' Allen and Land ,&555- speak of the ongoing
renegotiation that occurs in terms of family goals. They argue that an adolescent %ith
secure attachment %ould #e part of a system %here goals are constantly re)set and the
family mem#ers+ needs %ould #e in sync one another.
Adolescent elationships !ith "others #ersus $athers. >oherty and Beaton
,:""?- e$plore the importance of looking at mother)child and father)child relationships
#oth separate from one another and as dyads that interact in a system' since each
relationship has different /ualities that may impact later outcomes. As sho%n %ith the
research on concordance' children can sometimes ha*e differing attachments to mothers
and fathers. .n addition' children start to e$perience their relationships %ith their mothers
and fathers in differing %ays. 0#ser*ing parent)infant interactions %hile playing' Leaper
,:"""- found that play %ith mother and father differed' according to #oth gender of
parent and of child. This suggests that each parent contri#utes differently to children+s
de*elopment and' importantly' points to%ard the differing influence that parents ha*e on
social outcomes' sparking interest in e$ploring mothers and fathers impact on children+s
Adolescents ha*e #een #rought up spending more time %ith' and engage in more
open sharing of emotion' %ith mothers than %ith fathers ,Laursen 8 Collins' :""?-.
Paterson' 2ield' and Pryor ,&55?- supported earlier research that points to%ard the
importance of mothers for attachment related outcomes in adolescence. 4pecifically'
adolescents reported higher le*els of the /uality of affect to%ard their mothers than
fathers ,e.g. Founiss 8 4mollar' &56!-. Lei#erman' >oyle' and Markie%ic( ,&555- also
found that percei*ed maternal a*aila#ility is important across the transition from
childhood to adolescence' and the /uality of the mother)adolescent relationship is
strongly linked to attachment security as %ell ,Allen et al.' :""@-. Allen and colleagues
found that maternal #eha*iors' such as support and attunement' predicted security in the
mother)adolescent relationship. Additionally' they found that 5
and &"
graders %ho
%ere more securely attached %ere #etter a#le to intellectually and emotionally use their
strong relationship %ith their mother as a #ase for e$ploration and autonomy.
More recent research has sho%n that older children differ in their utili(ation of
mother and father as %ell as the /uality of affect to%ard mother and father. 2or e$ample'
3unter and Founiss ,&56:- and Paterson' 2ield' and Pryor ,&55?- found that adolescents
rely on mothers for support more than their fathers. This might #e #ecause of
e$pectations a#out the roles of their mother and father that ha*e #ecome ingrained in the
adolescent. Conse/uently' a child+s mother and father are t%o different people %ho
interact %ith and influence their children in distincti*e %ays.
As sho%n' it is o#*ious that a strong #ond e$ists #et%een mothers and
adolescents' ho%e*er the importance that the father plays in the child+s life should not #e
o*erlooked. Recent research suggests that fathers also are significant attachment figures
for adolescents ,e.g. Williams 8 7elly' :""!-. .t has #een sho%n that the father)
adolescent relationship is related to se*eral attachment constructs= specifically' %armth'
closeness and a*aila#ility ,Ca#rrera' Tamis)LeMonda' Bradley' 3offerth' 8 Lam#' :"""-'
and attachment to father significantly predicts friendship conflict for adolescents
,Lie#erman' >oyle' 8 Markie%ic(' &555-.
Adolescent)father attachment impacts adolescent ad1ustment in a different %ay
than does mother)adolescent attachment. Williams and 7elly ,:""!- compared #oth
mother)adolescent and father)adolescent relationships' finding that although there %ere
more secure mother)adolescent attachment relationships' the father)adolescent attachment
relationship %as related to adolescents+ #eha*ioral pro#lems. 4pecifically' more paternal
in*ol*ement in the parenting process %as related to more security of attachment. This
suggests that fathers do play an important role for attachment related outcomes for
adolescents. .t is un/uestiona#ly important to study adolescent attachments to the fathers
as %ell as to their mothers.
Considering the importance of the reciprocal nature of the parent)adolescent
attachment #ond' to date' there is not much research on ho% mothers and fathers are
attached to their adolescents. There is information a#out ho% adolescents are attached to
their parents' as %ell as ho% mem#ers of the family impact one another' ho%e*er the %ay
parents are attached to their adolescents is an almost o*erlooked topic. >eko*ic and
Buist ,:""!- ha*e 1ust recently found a relationship #et%een parental ratings of their
attachment relationships %ith their children. .t is important to e$plore this further' and
especially' to e$tend this idea #y looking at the patterns among the consistency of
attachment #et%een mem#ers of the same family.
Adolescent-Peer elationships
Throughout de*elopment' children create emotional #onds %ith not only their
parents' #ut %ith other indi*iduals as %ell. Parent)child relationships impact social
de*elopment' such as the creation of peer relationships. 3a(an and 4ha*er ,&55?- state
that children must create #onds %ith other a*aila#le figures and' as de*elopment
progresses' peers #ecome e$tremely important attachment figures. These ne% peer
relationships' ho%e*er' look different than those %ith parents ,e.g. 2reeman 8 Bro%n'
:""&= ickerson 8 agle' :""!-. 2or e$ample' adolescents #egin to spend less time %ith
parents and much more time %ith their peers ,Collins 8 Repinsky' &55?-. 7erns ,&55?-
argues that the forming of closer peer #onds allo%s adolescents to e$plore independence
from parents. Additionally' ickerson and agle ,:""!- found that adolescents go to
their peers in times of need ,pro$imity seeking #eha*iors- more than #efore entering this
de*elopmental period.
.mportantly' peer relationships e$ist in different settings outside the family. Thus'
the relationships that children ha*e %ith friends allo% for furthering of social
de*elopment ,4a*in)Williams 8 Berndt' &55"-. E$amining the /uality of friendships in
adolescence' 4a*in)Williams and Berndt ,&55"- stated that #oth positi*e /ualities of peer
relationships' such as trust and support' and negati*e /ualities' such as 1ealousy and
resentment' help %ith de*elopment in social and personal realms. Many researchers ha*e
studied correlates of positi*e friendships and ha*e found relations to self)esteem ,e.g.
Green#erg' 4iegel' 8 Leitch' &56@- and lo%er le*els of loneliness ,4a*in)Williams 8
Berndt' &55"-. Additionally' Weimer' 7erns' and 0lden#erg ,:""?- found a relationship
#et%een positi*e friendship /ualities in a #est)friend dyad and security of each partner in
the dyad' suggesting that those dyads %ith more security are made up of friends %ho feel
#etter a#out not only the friendship #ut themsel*es as %ell. Better communication
#et%een dyad partners %as also related to more security in the dyad' supporting the
importance of communication for attachment as mentioned #efore' ,Weimer' 7erns' and
0lden#urg' :""?-.
As adolescents seek autonomy and independence from their parents' they turn to
peers more than #efore ,ickerson 8 agle' :""!-. 2urman and Buhrmester ,&55:-
looked at important changes in peer relationships across the transition from childhood to
adolescence. Most importantly' they found that support)seeking needs are fulfilled less
#y parents and more #y peers as childhood ends and adolescence #egins. Founiss and
4mollar ,&56!- state that this change in utili(ation of peers might occur #ecause ha*ing
high)/uality friendships ser*es to fulfill the social needs that emerge in adolescence.
This does not undermine the importance of the parent)adolescent relationship' #ut points
to%ard a gain in importance and influence of peer relationships for positi*e de*elopment.
Related to this' parental understanding and fle$i#ility are related to adolescents+
friendship satisfaction and general %ell)#eing ,4illars' 7oerner' 8 2it(patrick' :""!-'
%hich supports the argument that fle$i#ility is among the most important aspects of the
relationships' as it is e$tremely important for communication ,Laursen 8 Collins' :""?-.
elationship %et!een Parent and Peer Attachment
Peers are central to adolescent de*elopment and social life. Because adolescents
e$perience close #onds %ith peers' it is imperati*e to look at adolescent)peer attachments
in con1unction to those %ith parents. Easter#rooks and Lam# ,&5<5- found a relationship
#et%een mother)infant attachment ,using Ains%orth+s 4trange 4ituation- and peer
competence at the same point in infancy #y o#ser*ing dyads. .n another early study'
Waters' Wippman' and 4roufe ,&5<5- found that attachment in infancy %as related to peer
interaction at age three and a half. 4pecifically' competence in the peer group %as
predicted #y attachment status' suggesting that security of attachment to parents impacts
child)peer relationships. 2urthermore' 2urman' 4imon' 4haffer' and Bouchey ,:"":-
found that' #ased on Bo%l#y+s pre*ious %ork' %orking models of friendships in late
adolescence %ere related to those %ith parents and romantic partners. Considering these
findings and the de*elopmental trends that occur across the transition to adolescence' it
seems as if' at this point' there %ould #e a relationship #et%een adolescent attachment to
parents and to peers. .nterestingly' 2urman' 4imon' 4haffer' and Bouchy also found
significant differences in the attachment security status of adolescents to their parents and
peers. 2or e$ample' some adolescents %ho %ere classified as dismissing %ith their
parents %ere classified as secure %ith their peers. 0ne e$planation for this %as that at
this point in de*elopment' some adolescents may not feel that their parents are responsi*e
in times of need' and therefore seek this comfort from friends instead ,2urman' 4imon'
4haffer' 8 Bouchey' :"":-.
While attachment theory says that a person has a style of interacting %ith others'
it is important to note that mother)child and father)child relationships are discrete.
Children e$perience each of their different relationships uni/uely and are influenced
differently #y their mothers and fathers. As pre*iously e$isting relationships continue to
#e important for de*elopment of ne% relationships in adolescence' it #ecomes apparent
that adolescents start to differentiate among relationships %ith parents and %ith peers
,Collins 8 Repinsky' &55?-. Montemayor and Gregg ,&55?- speak of identity
de*elopment in adolescence and its connection to interpersonal relationships= they note
that as identity de*elops' adolescents sees that people they relate to see them in different
%ays. Thus' in early adolescence one #egins to fully understand relationships are
distinct. As noted #efore' Williams and 7elly ,:""!- also found differences in adolescent
attachment to mother and to father. Therefore' it is important to e$amine attachment
relationships as different from one another.
.nterestingly' 2reeman and Bro%n ,:""&- conducted a study looking at the
relationship #et%een attachment style and choice of attachment figure in adolescence.
They found that' in general' parents and peers %ere nominated /uantitati*ely e/ually'
ho%e*er there %ere nomination differences #ased on attachment status. Those
adolescents %ho %ere more secure nominated their mother more' and those %ho %ere
more insecure %ere more likely to nominate their peers.
.n a study using an early self)report attachment measure' ickerson and agle
,:""!- found that attachment to parents and peers differed not only from one another #ut
also across the adolescent transition. .t can #e strongly suggested that attachment to
parents changes in some manner across this transition #ecause communication and trust
%ith parents decreased during these shifts ,from fourth to si$th to eighth grade- in
adolescence ,ickerson 8 agle' :""!-. Additionally' ickerson and agle found a
change in the amount of reported pro$imity seeking and safe ha*en fulfillment %ith
peers' such that' as mentioned se*eral times #efore' adolescents tend to seek out friends
%hen needed instead of their parents. Although some /ualities of the parent)adolescent
attachment relationship decrease %hile other /ualities of the adolescent)peer attachment
relationship increase' parents still are utili(ed as important attachment)figures. 0n the
other hand' #oth ickerson and agle and 7erns' 7lepac' and Cole ,&55B- found that use
of parents to fulfill secure #ase needs did not change across this transition' %hich
suggests that as adolescents e$plore ne% relationship realms' parents still remain an
important #ase for security.
ickerson and agle ,:""!- state that there are t%o *ie%s in e$plaining
attachment to parents and peers. 0ne *ie% is that secure attachment in the parent)child
relationship might allo% for felt security in other relationships. 0n the other hand'
insecure attachment in the parent)child relationships might foster the desire to find
security else%here. Currently' the ma1ority of research on peer attachment in adolescence
e$amines the relationship #et%een attachment and %ell)#eing. 2e% studies e$amine ho%
adolescents are attached to their mother' father and peers and the relationship that e$ists
#et%een these different attachments.
Dimensions of Attachment
The concept of a secure #ase seems to e$ist across all stages in de*elopment
,Armsden 8 Green#erg' &56<= Caffery 8 Erdman' :"""-. Especially in adolescence'
%hen e$ploration and autonomy from parents in #oth a physical and a psychological
manner marks the adolescent transition' the presence and a*aila#ility of attachment
figures is crucial ,e.g. Allen 8 Land' &555-. Therefore' the #eha*iors of attachment used
to descri#e infant attachments should #e related to attachment in adolescence. 3a(an and
4ha*er ,&55?- state that in adult romantic relationships' the most important aspect of the
relationship that relates to attachment is for each person to act as a Crelia#le ha*en of
safety.E .n adolescence' this idea translates to the support' %armth and comfort that
attachment figures can pro*ide. 4eparation protest is another #eha*ioral aspect of *ery
early attachments that translates to adolescence. 2or e$ample' #ecause of cogniti*e
gains' a more comple$ understanding of separation %ill ha*e implications for attachment
relationships %hen faced %ith more permanent separations' such as death.
According to Armsden and Green#erg ,&56<- there are three underlying
constructs of attachment that e$ist; communication' trust and alienation. The ma1ority of
research pertaining to these three constructs focuses on communication and the
relationship #et%een communication and attachment. Little research e$ists that e$amines
the relationship #et%een #oth trust and attachment and alienation and communication.
Communication. Bidirectional communication among parents and children has
#een the focus of the ma1ority of research in this area. More specifically' 4egrin and
2lora ,:""!- argue that reciprocity' defined as mutual communication e$changes that are
kno%ingly a*aila#le' and synchrony' defined as communication that occurs in a
harmonious fashion' are aspects of communication that help create strong emotional
#onds #et%een parents and children in infancy. Moreo*er' these strong parent)child
relationship e$changes are important throughout life.
.n infancy' children seek pro$imity and comfort %hen they sense danger.
Adolescents seek pro$imity and comfort in the form of ad*ice %hen they feel it is needed
,3a(an 8 4ha*er' &55?= 4chneider 8 Founger' &55B-. Therefore' communication may #e
e$tremely important in adolescence. >uring adolescence' the parent)child relationship
depends on closeness' %hich is esta#lished and sustained from earlier stages' and conflict'
%hich helps the adolescent distance' in a psychological sense' from the parents ,Laursen
8 Collins' :""?-. Additionally' openness #et%een parents and adolescents is related to
ha*ing a Cpositi*e emotional climateE ,Arnold' Pratt' 8 3icks' :""?-. More open
communication allo%s for understanding during a time of such important transition and
changes' specifically in terms of acceptance of the ne% needs and desires adolescents
face ,4illars' 7oerner' 8 2it(patrick' :""!-.
The a#ility of parents and children to communicate %ith one another is related to
security of attachment. 2or e$ample' attachment security is related to #etter
connectedness of communication in the mother)child relationship ,2reitag' Belsky'
Grossmann' Grossmann' 8 4cheuerer)English' &55B-. 2reitag' Belsky' Grossmann'
Grossmann' and 4cheuerer)English ,&55B- in*estigated the connection #et%een
attachment and communication across infancy and middle childhood. They conducted a
cross cultural study that paralleled pre*ious ones conducted in the 9nited 4tates' finding
an organi(ation in the parent)child relationship that is related to #oth attachment and
communication. Additionally' the authors refer to Bo%l#y+s %ork on the CpartnershipE
relationship that e$ists #et%een parent and child. The present study %ill e$amine the role
that both the father)child and the mother)child relationships play in adolescent attachment
#ecause these relationships co)e$ist in the family.
The study conducted #y 2reitag and colleagues ,&55B- looked at infancy through
middle childhood' lea*ing adolescence une$plored' as %ith much of the research.
Communication #et%een parents and children changes as the child passes through
different de*elopmental stages ,Arnold' Pratt 8 3icks' :""?= Laursen 8 Collins' :""?-.
Laursen and Collins ,:""?- speak of communication trends in families' mentioning that
specifically in adolescence' the family unit functions #ased on prior interactions and
communication patterns' #ut its mem#ers are a#le to re)e*aluate and adapt their
communication to allo% for the adolescent+s changes. 4ince 2reitag and colleagues sho%
the connection #et%een attachment security and communication across infancy and
middle childhood' and it is kno%n that families that communicate #etter are #etter a#le to
deal %ith de*elopmental transitions' it seems as if these communication patterns should
persist across the transition to adolescence as %ell. This suggests that the #etter the
communication #et%een parents and children in adolescence' the more a sense of felt
security should e$ist across de*elopmental transitions. Beginning in infancy' parent)child
communication creates a foundation for communication %ith others across the lifespan
,Bo%l#y' &566= 4egrin 8 2lora' :""!-.
7reppner and 9llrich ,&556- studied communication across the transition from
childhood to adolescence. They found that after grouping adolescents into different
attachment style categories ,secure' ha#itual' and am#i*alent-' differences in
communication e$isted %ithin the family unit. 4pecifically' secure adolescents sho%ed
less CsilenceE in their communication %ith parents than the other groups' and the secure
group also sho%ed higher le*els of e$pressed closeness %ith mothers. 7reppner and
9llrich also found differences in adolescent communication %ith mother and father.
.nterestingly' those adolescents in the secure group e$hi#ited more distant #eha*ior from
fathers' and higher le*els of e$pressed closeness %ith fathers %as seen %ith the ha#itual
and am#i*alent groups. The secure group' ho%e*er' displayed #oth C*ery highE and
C*ery lo%E e$pression of closeness %ith their fathers. Therefore' more *ariation in
communication may lead an adolescent to #e a#le to ad1ust le*els of communication as
needed= specifically' since one of the ma1or de*elopmental shifts in adolescence is that of
autonomy and indi*iduation' #eing a#le to shift the amount of closeness and distance is
Trust. The second dimension of trust can #e defined as the secure feelings and
#eliefs that another person %ill fulfill certain needs ,Armsden 8 Green#erg' &56<-. Trust
is a product of strong relationships' specifically those in %hich relationship partners feel
that they can depend upon one another ,Collins 8 Repinsky' &55?-. 2urthermore' trust is
one component of a strong relationship #et%een children and their attachment figures' as
it is seen that children #uild trust in relationships #y learning that others are consistently
there for them. The secure #ase phenomenon emphasi(es the kno%ledge of a*aila#ility
of the attachment figure in times of need. .n other %ords' a representation of the a#ility
to trust the attachment figure e$ists #ecause of positi*e past situations related to trust.
oller ,&55?- also states that trust%orthiness' as %ell as closeness' is an e$tremely
important /uality of relationships.
According to 4a*in)Williams and Berndt ,&55"- one of the ma1or /ualities of a
strong peer relationship is trust. Additionally' 3a(an and 4ha*er ,&55?- argue that'
during adolescence' peer attachments #egin %ith such pro$imity seeking #eha*iors. o
matter %hom the attachment figure is' adolescents %ant to feel that they are close to' and
can trust' those %ith %hom they ha*e relationships ,oller' &55?-.
Alienation. The third dimension of attachment' alienation' is closely related to
a*oidance and re1ection' t%o constructs that are *ery important to security of attachment.
When one senses that the attachment figure is not a*aila#le' attachment #ecomes less
secure' possi#ly #ased on feelings of alienation. 4urprisingly' gi*en the importance of the
alienation dimension' no research on the relationship #et%een alienation and attachment
e$ists. .t is therefore important to e$plore the relationship that feelings of alienation ha*e
to attachment.
Attachment theory emphasi(es the importance of the emotional #onds in
relationships. .t has #een sho%n that parents play an important role as attachment figures
for their children. Taking into account the de*elopmental changes that occur in
adolescence' it also has #een found that parent and adolescent roles change as adolescents
stri*e for more autonomy and indi*iduation ,4egrin 8 2lora' :""!-. Most importantly'
secure adolescents ha*e #een found to #e more a#le to e$plore their en*ironment and
achie*e more independence ,Lauren 8 Collins' :""?-. .t also has #een sho%n that as
children transition through adolescence' peers #ecome important figures as %ell as
parents. 4ome of the research re*ie%ed ,e.g. ickerson 8 agle' :""!- suggests a
smooth transition into the larger social %orld of adolescence %hen there is security %ithin
the parent)child relationship' %hich then is related to more security in relationships that
follo% the adolescent outside of the home. There are' ho%e*er' inconsistencies in the
literature as to the patterns in attachment across different attachment figures ,e.g. Le%is'
2erin 8 Rosenthal' :"""= Main 8 Weston' &56&-' gi*ing merit to the present study.
Attachment theorists e$amine attachment #eha*iors and representations across the
lifespan. Most of the attachment literature' ho%e*er' focuses on infancy ,e.g. 2o$'
7immerly' 8 4chafer' &55&= Easter#rooks' &565-' childhood ,e.g. 7erns' 7lepac' 8 Cole'
&55B- and adulthood ,e.g. 3a(an 8 Heifman' &555-' %ith much less research e$amining
attachment in adolescence. onetheless' adolescence marks a significant period of
transition. Therefore it is important to e$amine attachment during such an important
period as %ell. Research that e$amines adolescence typically concerns continuity of
attachment from infancy ,e.g. 4froufe 8 Waters' &5<<- or attachment to the mother only
,e.g. Allen et al.' :""@-. There is e*en less research on adolescent attachment to fathers
and peers.
The first o#1ecti*e of the present study %ill e$plore the patterns of adolescent
attachment to their mothers' fathers and peers. 4ince almost no studies of attachment in
adolescence look at ho% relationships %ith all three figures relate to one another' this
study is among the first to do so. Considering the lack of research and understanding of
this interaction' specific hypotheses are not pro1ected. The second o#1ecti*e is to
e$amine similarities %ithin mother and adolescent ratings of one another and father and
adolescent ratings of one another. Again' #ecause this is a ne% topic among attachment
researchers' this study %ill e$plore relations %ithout pro1ecting specific hypotheses.
This study is part of a larger pro1ect' %hich e$amines family narrati*es and
adolescent identity. 0nly those methods related to the present pro1ect %ill #e discussed.
T%enty)four families %ith either an 6
grade or a &"
grade adolescent
participated in the study. 2amilies %ere recruited through *arious sources such as schools
and religious groups ,e.g. church-' as %ell as %ith fliers that %ere dispersed to #oth
participating families and around a uni*ersity. To #e included in the study' families had
to ha*e t%o parents li*ing in the home' either #iological parents' step parents' or adopti*e
parents. Most families had other children li*ing in the household as %ell. 2amilies
typically had #et%een one and four total children li*ing in the household. Thirteen
families identified themsel*es as Caucasian' &" as African American' and one as
3ispanic. ineteen families %ere descri#ed as traditional ,#oth #iological parents li*ing
in the home- and three as #lended ,one #iological parent and one non)#iological parent
li*ing in the home-. 0ut of the :? families' t%o adolescents %ere adopted ,#oth in
infancy-. Ten adolescents %ere female ,mean age &?.B- and &? %ere male ,mean age
&?.!-. At the time of the study' ten adolescents %ere in 6
grade ,mean age &@.?- and &?
%ere in &"
grade ,mean age &!.?-. All parents ga*e signed consent and all adolescents
ga*e signed assent as appro*ed #y the Emory 9ni*ersity .nstitutional Re*ie% Board. 2or
participating in the study' families %ere compensated I!"' and adolescents %ere gi*en
t%o mo*ie tickets and a I:! gift certificate.
A female researcher *isited the family+s home on t%o separate occasions. >uring
the *isit' se*eral narrati*es %ere collected from the mother and adolescent as part of the
larger study. .n addition' /uestionnaire packets %ere left for #oth the mother and
adolescent to complete separately. Another /uestionnaire packet %as left for the father to
complete as %ell. The researcher #riefly e$plained the /uestionnaires. Participants %ere
asked to complete all /uestionnaires' although they %ere told that /uestions may #e
skipped if there is any reason to do so' although this %as not encouraged. Typically
%ithin t%o %eeks' the same researcher returned to the home and collected the
Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment-evised &IPPA' Armsden ( )reenberg*
+,-./. Each adolescent %as asked to complete the .PPA' a self)report /uestionnaire that
includes :! items that %ere designed to measure adolescent attachment to parent
,mother-' adolescent attachment to parent ,father- and adolescent attachment to friends
,peers-. The measure assesses #oth positi*e and negati*e affecti*e and cogniti*e
dimensions related to attachment. As discussed in the introduction' the three dimensions
used to measure attachment are communication' trust and alienation. The communication
dimension is measured %ith &" items. 2or e$ample; C.f my motherJfatherJfriends kno%s
something is #othering me' heJshe asks me.E The trust dimension is measured %ith nine
items. 2or e$ample; CMy motherJfatherJfriends respects my feelings.E The alienation
dimension is measured %ith si$ items. 2or e$ample; C. don+t get much attention from my
motherJfatherJfriends.E The adolescent is asked to complete each set of /uestions in
relation to their mother' their father and their peers. Kuestions are ans%ered on a !)point
Likert scale' ranging from CAlmost e*er or e*er TrueE to CAlmost Al%ays or Al%ays
9sing t%o samples of adolescents' ages ranging from &B to :"' Armsden and
Green#erg ,&56<- found good internal relia#ility for the .PPA' %ith Chron#ach+s alphas .
6< for mother attachment' .65 for father attachment and .5: for peer attachment. A three)
%eek test)retest relia#ility of .5@ for parent attachment and .6B for peer attachment %as
also found ,Armsden 8 Green#erg' &56<-.
The .PPA also has good construct *alidity. .t has #een found to #e related to other
measures' such as the 2amily 4elf)Concept ,r L ".<6 %ith parent attachment= r L ".:6
%ith peer attachment- and 4ocial 4elf)Concept ,r L ".?B %ith parent attachment= r L ".!<
%ith peer attachment- su#scales of the Tennessee 4elf)Concept 4cale and to se*eral
su#scales of the 2amily En*ironmental 4cale ,2E4- ,Armsden and Green#erg' &56<-.
4pecifically' parent attachment %as positi*ely related to Cohesion ,r L ".!B-'
E$pressi*eness ,r L ".!:- and 0rgani(ation ,r L ".@6-' and %as negati*ely related to
Conflict ,r L )".@B- and Control ,r L )".:"- ,Armsden 8 Green#erg' &56<-.
.n addition to asking adolescents to complete the .PPA for their relationships %ith
their mother' father and peers' each parent %as asked to complete the related *ersion of
the same /uestionnaire to allo% for e$ploration of parent+s attachment to their
adolescents. Mohnson' 7etring and A#shire ,:""@- re*ised the original .PPA to #e used
for this purpose. This /uestionnaire consists of &" /uestions for the communication
dimension' se*en for the trust dimension and ! for the alienation dimension. 4e*eral
items %ere re)%ritten in order to allo% parents to ans%er the /uestion #ased on their
relationship %ith their children. 2or e$ample' the original /uestion' C. tell my
motherJfatherJfriends a#out my pro#lems and trou#les'E %as changed to' C. talk to my
child a#out my difficulties.E Additionally' se*eral items %ere deleted from the original
*ersion' such as' CMy motherJfatherJfriends doesn+t understand %hat .+m going through
theses days'E and se*eral additions %ere made' such as' C. am constantly yelling and
fighting %ith my child.E Relia#ility for the different dimensions %ere #et%een alpha L .
<: and alpha L .5! ,Mohnson' 7etring 8 A#shire' :""@-. The re*ised *ersion of the .PPA
%as also correlated %ith other measures looking at *aria#les related to attachment
,Mohnson' 7etring 8 A#shire' :""@-.
Each dimension of the .PPA ,trust' communication and alienation- yields a
separate score' and is scored separately. 4e*eral /uestions on the trust and
communication dimensions and the %hole alienation dimension are re*erse scored.
Ans%ers to /uestions for each dimension are then added together. .f a /uestion is
skipped' the mean of the ans%ered /uestions is then added as the score for the skipped
/uestion. All three dimensions are also totaled to create a total attachment score
dimension. The mean for each dimension is computed and used for analyses.
Because se*eral fathers %ere not a*aila#le to complete the .PPA' any analyses
that include father ratings of attachment to adolescent %ere only conducted %ith scores
from &5 families.

Results are discussed in t%o sections. The first section e$amines ho% male and
female adolescents rate their attachment to parents and peers as %ell as ho% mothers and
fathers rate their attachment to their adolescents. The second part e$amines the relations
among attachment ratings that address the specific o#1ecti*es of the study.
Differences among attachment ratings
Ta#le & displays the mean ratings ,and standard de*iations- adolescents ga*e on
each dimension to mother' father and peers. To look at the differences #et%een
adolescent ratings of mother' father and peers on all dimensions' a : ,grade- N : ,gender-
N @ ,person- N ? ,dimension- Mi$ed)Model Analysis of Oariance ,A0OA- %as
conducted %ith grade and gender as #et%een su#1ect factors and person and dimension as
%ithin su#1ect factors. There %as a main effect of person ,2,:'?"- L <.!B' p P ."&- and a
main effect of dimension ,2,@'B"- L 5.&@' p P .""&-' as %ell as a person #y dimension
interaction ,2,B'&:"- L 6.:6:' p P .""&-. o other main effects or interactions reached
significance. Therefore' : ,grade- N : ,gender- N @ ,person- A0OAs %ere conducted
for each dimension separately. There %ere no main effects or interactions on the trust
dimension. There %as' ho%e*er' a main effect of person on the communication
dimension ,2,:' ?"- L &<.&"' p P .""&-' the alienation dimension ,2,:' ?"- L &6.!5' p P .
""&-' and the total attachment score ,2,:' ?"- L ?<!.@5' p P .""&-.
.n order to e$amine the main effects for the communication' alienation and the
total attachment score dimensions' follo%)up paired)sample t)test comparing ratings of
pairs of attachment figures ,see Ta#le &- %ere conducted. 0n the communication
dimension' there %as a significant difference #et%een adolescent ratings of fathers and
peers ,t,:@- L )B.?"' p P .""&-' mothers and peers ,t,:@- L )@.<!' p P .""&- and mothers
and fathers ,t,:@- L :.:<' p P ."!-. Peers %ere rated higher than #oth fathers and mothers'
and mothers %ere rated higher than fathers. 0n the alienation dimension there %as a
significant difference #et%een adolescent ratings of mothers and fathers ,t,:@- L :.6!' p P
."&- and fathers and peers ,t,:@- L ):.<6' p P ."!-' such that #oth mothers and peers %ere
rated higher than fathers. 0n the total attachment score' there %as a significant difference
#et%een adolescent ratings of fathers and peers ,t,:@- L )?.@!' p P .""&- and mothers and
fathers ,t,:@- L :.BB' p P ."!-. There %as also a trend for adolescent ratings of mothers
and peers ,t,:@- L )&.5?' p P .&"- on the total attachment score. Peers %ere rated higher
than #oth fathers and mothers' and mothers %ere rated higher than fathers.
An additional /uestion %as %hether adolescents' as a group' had higher or lo%er
ratings on attachment dimensions than did mothers or fathers. .n order to e$amine the
consistency of ratings of attachment dimensions of attachment #et%een adolescent and
mother and adolescent and father pairs' a : ,grade- N : ,gender- N : ,person- A0OA
%as conducted for each dimension. There %ere no differences on any of the dimensions
of attachment #et%een adolescent ratings of mother and mother ratings of adolescent ,see
Ta#le :-. Additionally' there %ere no differences on the communication dimension
#et%een adolescent ratings of father and father ratings of adolescent ,see Ta#le :-. There
%as a three)%ay interaction #et%een person' gender and grade on the trust dimension
,2,&'&!- L <.?:' p P ."!- and total attachment score ,2,&'&!- L !."5' p P ."!- dimensions
#et%een adolescent ratings of father and father ratings of adolescent. 0n the alienation
dimension' there %as a trend #et%een adolescent ratings of father and father ratings of
adolescent ,2,&'&!- L @.B5' p P .&"-' such that fathers rated their adolescents higher than
adolescents rated their fathers. To e$plore the three)%ay interactions on the trust and
total attachment score dimensions' #ecause the fre/uencies %ere lo%' interaction %as
graphed instead of conducting a follo%)up t)test ,see 2igures & and :-. The 6
grade #oys
rated fathers higher than their fathers rated them on #oth the trust and total attachment
score dimensions. The 6
grade girls rated fathers higher than their fathers rated them on
#oth the trust and total attachment score dimensions.
elations among attachment relationships
.n order to e$amine indi*idual differences among the attachment dimensions'
Pearson+s r correlations %ere conducted. Ta#le @ displays the correlations among
adolescent ratings of mother' father and peers. There %ere significant positi*e relations
#et%een adolescent ratings of mother and father on the trust' communication' alienation
and total attachment score dimensions. There %as also a significant positi*e correlation
#et%een adolescent ratings of father and peers for the communication dimension'
ho%e*er there %ere no significant relations #et%een adolescent ratings of father and
peers on the other dimensions' nor on any of the dimensions for adolescent ratings of
mother and peers.
Ta#le ? displays the similarity of adolescent and mother ratings of one another
and father and adolescent ratings of one another. There %as a significant positi*e
correlation #et%een adolescent and mother ratings of one another for the trust dimension
as %ell as the total attachment score. There %as a positi*e correlation approaching
significance #et%een adolescent and father ratings of one another for the communication
dimension. All other dimensions for #oth pairs %ere not significantly related.
As an e$ploratory analysis' the concordance #et%een mother and father ratings of
adolescents %as e$amined and is displayed in Ta#le !. There %as a significant positi*e
correlation #et%een mother and father ratings of adolescents for the trust and alienation
dimensions. The communication dimension and the total attachment score %ere not
significantly related.
The present study e$amined patterns of attachment during adolescence. Because
adolescence is such a crucial point in de*elopment' especially as it is related to social
transitions' it is imperati*e that %e understand ho% attachment looks in adolescence.
4pecifically' patterns in adolescent attachment to mothers' fathers and peers %ere
e$plored' and the similarity #et%een parent and adolescent ratings of attachment to one
another %as e$amined. 2indings and interpretations for each of these /uestions %ill #e
discussed' as %ell as limitations of the study and implications for future research
Adolescents sho%ed different le*els of attachment to different figures.
4pecifically' peers %ere rated higher than mothers' and #oth peers and mothers %ere rated
higher than fathers on #oth the communication dimension and the total attachment score.
Mother and peers' rated e/ually on the alienation dimension' %ere #oth rated higher than
fathers. 4chneider and Founger ,&55B- and 3a(an and 4ha*er ,&55?- find that
adolescents seek comfort from people %ho are most accessi#le. 4upporting the argument
#y Collins and Repinsky ,:""?-' at this point in de*elopment' mothers may #e those in
the family %ho are most easily accessi#le to satisfy these needs. As pre*iously found #y
Paterson' 2ield' and Pryor ,:""?-' adolescents tend to rely on their mothers more than
their fathers %hen in need of comfort and support. Therefore' present findings suggest
that mothers may #e more accessi#le to adolescents than fathers inside the home' an
e$planation for fathers #eing rated lo%est. .t may #e that #ecause adolescents feel less
alienated from their mothers than their fathers' they rate their communication higher and
feel more secure attachment to their mothers as %ell.
Additionally' in general mothers and adolescents rated one another similarly'
%hereas fathers and adolescents did not. .n other %ords' mothers and adolescents #oth
reported similar le*els of ratings of attachment to one another' %hereas fathers reported
higher le*els of ratings of attachment to their adolescents than their adolescents did to
them. This suggests that fathers percei*e their relationships as stronger than ho%
adolescents percei*e the relationship' #ut that adolescents and mothers percei*e the
strength of their relationships similarly. .nterestingly' adolescents are more open %ith
their mothers than their fathers on an emotional le*el ,Larusen 8 Collins' :""?-. .t may
#e that' #ecause of the le*el of a*aila#ility in the mother)adolescent relationship'
adolescents feel more comfort and support from their mother. 2athers' on the other hand'
may #e less a*aila#le to satisfy their adolescents+ needs' yet recei*e a certain comfort and
support from their adolescents.
.mportantly' peers %ere rated highest for se*eral dimensions' supporting pre*ious
research on the topic ,2urman 8 Buhrmester' &55:= ickerson 8 agle' :""!-. Amount
of time spent %ith peers increases across adolescence ,Collins 8 Repinsky' &55?-. As
%ith mothers *erses fathers' peers may #e more readily a*aila#le for satisfying needs of
comfort and support. The present findings' therefore' support 3a(an and 4ha*er+s ,&55?-
argument that children create stronger #onds %ith those %ho are a*aila#le attachment
figures' %hich also may e$plain %hy peers tended to #e rated highest. These findings fit
%ith e$isting kno%ledge of adolescent de*elopment. As adolescents seek autonomy from
the family their peer relationships gain importance. 0n the other hand' adolescents
continue to desire support from their parents ,2reeman 8 Bro%n' :""&-. Therefore' an
e$planation of the present findings' integrating that adolescents rate #oth peers and
mothers high' is that adolescents de*elop more social needs' %hich lead them to seek out
peers for comfort' #ut still need support from a strong home #ase.
Regarding adolescent ratings of attachment #et%een mothers and fathers' findings
suggest that there is concordance on ho% adolescents feel a#out their relationship %ith
their mother and their father. 0*erall' adolescent ratings of mothers and fathers %ere
related on all dimensions' such that those adolescents %ho are rating attachment to their
mothers high are also rating attachment to their fathers high on the trust' communication
and alienation dimensions as %ell as on the total attachment score. The strong relation
#et%een adolescent ratings of mothers and fathers suggests that adolescents generali(e
across parental relationships and may *ie% parents as a Cunit.E This idea supports the
#asic tenet of attachment theory. The internal %orking model of attachment originally
presented #y Bo%l#y ,&5B5- suggests that relationships %ith attachment figures are
represented mentally' #ased on past e$periences' and that these ideas and e$pectations
may then mold into a general style of attachment. Additionally' se*eral researchers ha*e
found high concordance rates #et%een infant attachment to their mother and father
,Easter#rooks' &565= 2o$' 7immerly' 8 4chafer' &55&-. Although this study is not
longitudinal' %hen taking into account the research on concordance in infancy' findings
of concordance suggest that children mentally represent relationships %ith their parents
#ased on earlier points in the relationships. .n other %ords' this study suggests that
Bo%l#y %as correct= that there is' in fact' an internal %orking model of attachment. At a
minimum' ho%e*er' this study supports the notion that' at this point in de*elopment'
adolescents are a#le to generali(e attachment across their relationships %ith #oth parents.
4urprisingly' ho%e*er' this study did not find relations among adolescents
attachment to parents and peers. As re*ie%ed' pre*ious studies ,e.g. Easter#rooks 8
Lam#' &5<5= Waters' Wippman' 8 4roufe' &5<5- ha*e found relationships #et%een
attachment to mother and peers in infancy and childhood. Additionally' Lai#le' Carlo'
and Roesch ,:""?- found a relationship #et%een attachment to parents and peers using
the .PPA. The study #y Lai#le and colleagues suggests that adolescent+s representations
of their relationships are generali(ed across those %ith parents and peers' an important
de*elopmental milestone socially. The study #y Lai#le and colleagues' ho%e*er' used an
older sample ,mean age &6.B years-' %hich might suggest that the younger sample in the
present study has already generali(ed across parental relationships #ut not yet across all
relationships' such as those %ith peers.
.nterestingly' another study #y Lai#le and colleagues ,:"""-' conducted %ith a
sample of &B year olds' sho%ed similar findings to the present study in terms of
correlations among attachment to parents and peers. Again' it may #e that at this point in
de*elopment' adolescents are 1ust #eginning to generali(e across attachment figures.
Research on friendships sho%s that across adolescence' peers are sought out in times of
need more than #efore. As found in this study' peers do gain importance in adolescence'
sho%n #y findings that' in general' adolescents are rating attachment to their peers
highest. .t may #e that early adolescents are using their peers to satisfy certain needs that
are different than those that they seek out their parents for. 4ince adolescence is a time
for identity de*elopment ,Erikson' &5B6-' adolescents typically stri*e for more autonomy
from their parents and more inclusion and acceptance into social realms. Therefore'
during this transition' adolescents may not yet #e a#le to generali(e across all
relationships' #ut do rely on se*eral different relationships for comfort and support.
2uture research should attempt to find %hat *aria#les allo% for the generali(ing of
attachment across figures and %hen' e$actly' this occurs.
An additional /uestion addressed in the study %as the similarity #et%een
adolescent and parental ratings of attachment of one another. When comparing
adolescents+ ratings of their mothers %ith mothers+ ratings of their adolescents' mothers
and adolescents rated one another similarly on the trust dimension as %ell as the total
attachment score. .n comparing similarities in ho% adolescents rated their fathers and
ho% fathers rated their adolescents' fathers and adolescents rated one another similarly on
the communication dimension. Laursen and Collins ,:""?- argue that more time is spent
%ith mothers than %ith fathers and' more importantly' that there is more sharing of
emotions %ith mothers as %ell. 0ther researchers ha*e also found relations #et%een
/uality of the mother)adolescent relationship and attachment security ,Allen et al.' :""@-'
and percei*ed maternal a*aila#ility ,Lei#erman' >oyle' 8 Markie%ic(' &555-. .n these
stronger' higher)/uality relationships' there may also #e higher le*els of trust #et%een
mothers and their adolescents. Additionally' Benoit and Parker ,&55?- ha*e found that
secure mothers tend to ha*e secure children. Therefore' it may #e that mothers %ho are
a*aila#le' specifically emotionally' are those %ho ha*e children %ho percei*e them to #e
this %ay' as %ell as feel as if their children are a#le to satisfy some of their emotional
2athers and adolescents percei*ed one another similarly on the communication
dimension. Possi#le reasons for this finding are not immediately apparent' particularly
gi*en the findings that fathers and adolescents' generally' are not rating their relationships
the same. >ra%ing upon findings #y 7reppner and 9llrich ,&556- that *aria#ility in
communication among fathers and adolescents is related to security of attachment' it may
#e that communication %ithin the father)adolescent pair helps foster a #etter relationship.
Williams and 7elly ,:""!- also suggest that paternal in*ol*ement is related to adolescent
attachment. Additionally' mothers and fathers play %ith and influence their children
differently ,Leaper' :"""-. Therefore' relationships %ith #oth mothers and fathers are
important during the adolescent transition= ho%e*er' as the pre*ious research and the
present findings suggest' each relationship has its uni/ue /ualities and different impact on
adolescent de*elopment.
Whereas' findings indicate that relations %ithin the mother)adolescent and father)
adolescent relationships e$ists on different dimensions' these dimensions are all related to
one another. Many researchers find that communication in the parent)infant and parent)
child relationship is related to infant and child attachment security ,e.g. 2reitag' Belsky'
Grossmann' Grossmann' 8 4cheuerer)English' &55B-' such that secure relationships tend
to #e more communicati*e' especially in open and emotional %ays. Because of the dyadic
nature of communication and trust' and the findings that parental in*ol*ement is related
to adolescent attachment ,Williams 8 7elly' :""!-' it is the communication and trust in
the parent)adolescent relationship that allo%s for adolescents to feel close to their parents
and' 1ust as important' parents to feel close to their adolescents. 2inding some similarity
in ratings of attachment to one another in both the mother)adolescent and father)
adolescent relationships suggests these relationships may #egin to #ecoming more
reciprocal' as suggested #y other researchers ,Laursen 8 Collins' :""?-.
Lastly' there %as concordance #et%een mother and father ratings of attachment to
their adolescent. This finding makes sense in terms of 2amily 4ystems Theory' %hich
argues that the family functions as a %hole unit as %ell as separate dyadic units' %hich all
interact ,7reppner' :"":-. The concordance #et%een all three dyadic relationships
,mother)adolescent' father)adolescent and mother)father- indicates that these attachment
relationships are not independent of one another. .t may #e that through these
interactions' as a %hole family as %ell as separate dyads' comes the creation of a
household Cclimate.E 0ther researchers ha*e also argued that families interact as a
%hole' creating a family style of interacting ,Arnold' Pratt' 8 3icks' :""?= 7reppner'
:"":-. These findings contri#ute to the importance of furthering research on the %hole
family in addition to its separate mem#ers and dyads %hen trying to e$plain ho% families
interact and impact one another.
There are se*eral limitations to the present study that %arrant attention. 2irst'
although there is a good amount of *aria#ility in the demographics of the sample' sample
si(e is fairly small. Any general conclusions dra%n a#out attachment in adolescence
must #e taken %ith the understanding that the sample si(e limits the po%er of findings.
2amilies also had some kno%ledge that the o*erall study %as a#out family relationships=
therefore there may #e specific /ualities possessed #y the families that %ould lead them
to participate in such a study.
Additionally' the .PPA is a self)report /uestionnaire and may yield ans%ers that
are #iased. There is the possi#ility that reported ans%ers may reflect a certain le*el of
social' or e*en family' desira#ility. There is some contro*ersy in the literature a#out
using self)report measures for attachment. 4ince attachment is thought to #e a mental
representation of one+s emotional #onds and past e$periences in relationships' it is
thought that the #est %ay to measure attachment is through narrati*es that tap into the
implicit representations in the mind ,for a re*ie% different measures of attachment' see
Cro%ell' 2raley' 8 4ha*er' &555= Lyddon' Bradford' 8 elson' &55@= 4ha*er 8
Mikulincer' :""?-. 9n/uestiona#ly' though' the .PPA does measure *aria#les that are
related to important aspects of the /uality of relationships and' importantly' that are
related to attachment. Lastly' this study does not yield data that speaks to%ard causality=
therefore only relational conclusions can #e dra%n.
onetheless' this study has sho%n that there are specific patterns of attachment in
adolescence' ho%e*er more research is needed to further understand these patterns. By
adolescence' there is the capa#ility to generali(e across relationships' ho%e*er it is still
unclear to %hat e$tent this occurs during early adolescence. Adolescents also ha*e
different relationships %ith each parent' yet these relationships seem to #e highly related
to one another in regard to attachment dimensions. .t is e$tremely important to e$plore
ho% these relationships %ork together in a family unit and' 1ust as important' to e$plore
ho% relations inside the family impact the adolescent+s e$tra)familial relationships. The
present study demonstrates the e$isting comple$ities of the adolescent period and the
transitions that occur at this time in de*elopment' %ith hopes to spark more curiosity and
e$ploration a#out relationships %ithin and outside of the family during adolescence.
Conclusi*ely' parents are o#*iously still important figures in their adolescents+ li*es'
%hile at the same time peers are important as %ell. .t seems as if in early adolescence'
there is still a strong need for parental support' especially in the form of a good
relationship' %hich may help adolescents form close #onds %ith friends as they enter into
a larger social %orld.
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Ta#le &. "eans &standard deviations/ for adolescent ratings of attachment by person and
dimension of attachment.
Ratings by person
Mother 2ather Peers
Dimensions (range 1-5)
Trust ?.@ ,.<<- ?.& ,.6"- ?.: ,.B&-
Communication @.< ,.<6- @.@ ,.5&- ?.? ,.!<-
Alienation @.5 ,.<:- @.? ,.5<- ?." ,.?@-
Total ?." ,.B!- @.B ,.<?- ?.@ ,.??-
Ta#le :. "eans &standard deviations/ for attachment ratings bet!een mothers and
adolescents and fathers and adolescents by dimension of attachment.
Ratings by person
Adolescent Mother to Adolescent 2ather to
to Mother Adolescent to 2ather Adolescent
Dimensions (range 1-5)
Trust ?.@ ,.<<- ?.: ,.?6- ?.& ,.6"- ?.& ,.!:-
Communication @.< ,.<6- @.< ,.??- @.@ ,.5&- @.B ,.?6-
Alienation @.5 ,.<:- @.5 ,.!B- @.? ,.5<- @.5 ,.6"-
Total ?." ,.B!- @.5 ,.?"- @.B ,.<?- @.5 ,.!:-
Ta#le @. Correlations of adolescents ratings of attachment to each person by dimension
of attachment.
Ratings by person
Mother and 2ather Mother and Peers 2ather and Peers
Trust .?B@Q ."6? .&?6
Communication .?:5Q .&@! .?&"Q
Alienation .!"!Q .:B& ).""5
Total .?5:Q .&@5 .:<"
Q p P ."!' QQ p P ."&
Ta#le ?. Correlations of attachment ratings bet!een mother and adolescent and father
and adolescent by dimension of attachment.
Ratings by person
Mother and Adolescent 2ather and Adolescent
Trust .!"BQ .&&"
Communication .:?6 .@?5R
Alienation .&6? .:B&
Total .?66Q .&<5
R p P .&"' Q p P ."!' QQ p P ."&
Ta#le !. Correlations of attachment ratings to adolescent bet!een mother and father by
dimension of attachment.
Ratings by person
Mother and 2ather
Trust .!::Q
Communication ."?6
Alienation .!@BQ
Total .@6&
Q p P ."!' QQ p P ."&
2igure &. "eans for ratings of attachment bet!een father and adolescent* by grade and
gender of adolescent* for the trust dimension.
Male 2emale
Gender and Grade of Adolescent


6th &"th 6th &"th
Adolescent to 2ather
2ather to Adolescent
2igure :. "eans for ratings of attachment bet!een father and adolescent* by grade and
gender of adolescent* for total attachment score.
Male 2emale
Gender and Grade of Adolescent


6th &"th 6th &"th
Adolescent to 2ather
2ather to Adolescent
Although . %ill focus on these three attachment #eha*iors' it is necessary to note that some researchers #elie*e there are
more than three.
Ains%orth and others consistently found a group of children %ho %ere unclassifia#le. As a result' a fourth category' the
disorgani(edJdisoriented type' %as introduced. Children of this classification sho% #eha*iors of #oth the am#i*alent and
a*oidant types. . %ill not #e discussing this category.
. ran all analyses using 1ust the &5 families' ho%e*er results %ere not different= therefore' to o#tain higher po%er' all
analyses that did not include these father ratings of attachment to adolescent utili(ed all :? original families.