Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Owen, Jesse

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Possel, Patrick

Committee Member

McCubbin, Laurie

Committee Member

Shuck, Brad

Author's Keywords

attachment; romantic relationships; global attachment; romantic attachment; specific attachment; attachment models


Attachment theory conceptualizes emotional regulation and relational behavior as developmental processes grounded in early relationships with caregivers. Attachment has been researched extensively, however, there is not consensus about the mechanism of attachment across different relationship types (e.g., friends, family, romantic partners). Research suggests that attachment can be organized as an overarching global pattern of relating under which relationship-specific patterns emerge and vary distinctly. This study seeks to better understand the nature of global attachment patterns vs. romantic attachment patterns using self-report responses from a sample of 302 adults in serious romantic relationships. We hypothesized that psychological outcomes more referential to the self (self-esteem and psychological wellbeing) would be related to global attachment while outcomes more referential to relationships (dyadic coping and sexual satisfaction) would be related to romantic attachment. We also hypothesized that some outcomes reflecting a complex interaction of self- and relational-relevant dynamics (relationship commitment) may be related to an interaction of global and romantic attachment. Results supported the concept that global and romantic attachment patterns are related but distinct mechanisms. Insecure global attachment was negatively related to self-esteem (more so than insecure romantic attachment), wellbeing, and dyadic coping. Insecure romantic attachment was negatively related to all study outcomes, more than insecure global attachment for dyadic coping, sexual satisfaction, and relationship commitment. No interaction effects were found. These study results are consistent with a model in which attachment patterns vary based on relationship type and are also differentially related to fundamental individual and relational outcomes. Future research further elucidating this model and exploring the potential for attachment pattern repair is encouraged. Further implications and future directions are discussed.