Support Processes Predict Declines in Attachment Avoidance Across the Transition to Parenthood

W. Steven Rholes, Jami Eller, Jeffry A. Simpson, Ximena B. Arriaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Attachment orientations in adulthood can change over time, but the specific circumstances that directly affect change are not well understood. Bowlby proposed that those circumstances involve the assimilation of information that is incongruent with an individual’s existing attachment orientation and underlying working models. In this study, 137 couples transitioning to parenthood were followed across the first 2 years of their firstborn child’s life, with both partners providing data at five time-points. Only changes in attachment avoidance were examined in this study. Consistent with predictions, downward changes in avoidance were associated with relationship events that introduced information inconsistent with avoidant working models. For example, people who provided more support to their partners declined in avoidance across the transition period. We discuss these findings and new directions needed to better understand when and how attachment orientations change during major life transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)810-825
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 26 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH49599.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.


  • attachment theory
  • avoidance
  • support
  • transition to parenthood

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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