Interpersonal and genetic origins of adult attachment styles: A longitudinal study from infancy to early adulthood

R. Chris Fraley, Glenn I. Roisman, Cathryn Booth-LaForce, Margaret Tresch Owen, Ashley S. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


One of the assumptions of attachment theory is that individual differences in adult attachment styles emerge from individuals' developmental histories. To examine this assumption empirically, the authors report data from an age 18 follow-up (Booth-LaForce & Roisman, 2012) of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a longitudinal investigation that tracked a cohort of children and their parents from birth to age 15. Analyses indicate that individual differences in adult attachment can be traced to variations in the quality of individuals' caregiving environments, their emerging social competence, and the quality of their best friendship. Analyses also indicate that assessments of temperament and most of the specific genetic polymorphisms thus far examined in the literature on genetic correlates of attachment styles are essentially uncorrelated with adult attachment, with the exception of a polymorphism in the serotonin receptor gene (HTR2A rs6313), which modestly predicted higher attachment anxiety and which revealed a Gene×Environment interaction such that changes in maternal sensitivity across time predicted attachment-related avoidance. The implications of these data for contemporary perspectives and debates concerning adult attachment theory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-838
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013


  • Adult attachment
  • Attachment styles
  • Development
  • Longitudinal
  • SNPs


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