Skip to main content Accessibility help

In search of security: The latent structure of the Adult Attachment Interview revisited

  • Katherine C. Haydon (a1), Glenn I. Roisman (a1) and Keith B. Burt (a2)


Building on Roisman, Fraley, and Belsky, who produced evidence for two modestly correlated dimensions (i.e., dismissing and preoccupied states of mind) underlying individual differences in attachment as assessed by the Adult Attachment Interview using the Main and Goldwyn classification system, this report replicates and extends relevant evidence in a large sample of adults (N = 842) who completed the Adult Attachment Interview coded using Kobak's Adult Attachment Interview Q-Sort. Principal components analysis of item-level Q-Sort data yielded two state of mind (dismissing vs. free to evaluate and preoccupied vs. not) and two inferred experience (maternal and paternal) components that were associated with two domains of theoretical significance to attachment theory: interpersonal functioning in a romantic context and symptoms of psychopathology. Results revealed distinctive behavioral correlates of dismissing versus preoccupied states of mind and emphasize the differential predictive significance for developmental adaptation of attachment states of mind versus adults' recollections of their early experiences. Implications for adult attachment methodology and theory are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Katherine C. Haydon or Glenn I. Roisman, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820; E-mail: or


Hide All
Achenbach, T. M. (1997). Manual for the Young Adult Self-Report and Young Adult Behavior Checklist. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2003). Manual for the ASEBA adult forms & profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, and Families.
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2009). The first 10,000 Adult Attachment Interviews: Distributions of adult attachment representations in clinical and non-clinical groups. Attachment & Human Development, 11, 223263.
Bernier, A., Larose, S., Boivin, M., & Soucy, N. (2004). Attachment state of mind: Implications for adjustment to college. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 783806.
Bouthillier, D., Julien, D., Dube, M., Belanger, I., & Hemelin, M. (2002). Predictive validity of adult attachment measures in relation to emotion regulation behaviors in marital interactions. Journal of Adult Development, 9, 291305.
Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and Loss: Attachment (Vol. 1). New York: Basic Books. (Original work published 1969)
Bryk, A., & Raudenbush, S. W. (1992). Hierarchical linear models for social and behavioral research: Applications and data analysis methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Cassidy, J. (1994). Emotion regulation: Influences of attachment relationships. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, 228283.
Cassidy, J., & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Cohen, J. (1983). The cost of dichotomization. Applied Psychological Measurement, 7, 249253.
Cohn, D., Silver, D., Cowan, P., Cowan, C., & Pearson, J. (1992). Working models of childhood attachment and couples' relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 13, 432449.
Creasey, G. (2002). Associations between working models of attachment and conflict management behavior in romantic couples. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 365375.
Crowell, J. A., Treboux, D., Gao, Y., Fyffe, C., Pan, H., & Waters, E. (2002). Assessing secure base behavior in adulthood: Development of a measure, links to adult attachment representations, and relations to couples' communication and reports of relationships. Developmental Psychology, 38, 679693.
Dozier, M., & Kobak, R. R. (1992). Psychophysiology in attachment interviews: Converging evidence for deactivating strategies. Child Development, 63, 14731480.
Dozier, M., Stovall-McClough, C., & Albus, K. E. (2008). Attachment and psychopathology in adulthood. In Cassidy, J. & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 718744). New York: Guilford Press.
Fortuna, K., & Roisman, G. I. (2008). Insecurity, stress, and symptoms of psychopathology: Contrasting results from self-reports versus interviews of adult attachment. Attachment & Human Development, 10, 1128.
Fortuna, K., Roisman, G. I., Haydon, K. C., & Groh, A. M. (2011). Attachment states of mind and the quality of young adults' sibling relationships. Developmental Psychology, 47, 13661373.
Fowles, D. C. (1980). The three arousal model: Implications of Gray's two-factor learning model for heart rate, electrodermal activity, and psychopathy. Psychophysiology, 17, 87104.
Fraley, R. C., & Spieker, S. J. (2003). Are infant attachment patterns continuously or categorically distributed? A taxometric analysis of Strange Situation behavior. Developmental Psychology, 39, 387404.
Fraley, R. C., & Waller, N. G. (1998). Adult attachment patterns: A test of the typology models. In Simpson, J. A. & Rholes, W. S. (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 77114). New York: Guilford Press.
George, C., Kaplan, N., & Main, M. (1985). An Adult Attachment Interview: Interview protocol. Unpublished manuscript, University of California at Berkeley.
Hair, J. F. Jr., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (1998). Multivariate data analysis with readings (5th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice–Hall.
Haydon, K. C., Roisman, G. I., Marks, M. J., & Fraley, R. C. (2011). An empirically derived approach to the latent structure of the Adult Attachment Interview: Additional convergent and discriminant validity evidence. Attachment & Human Development, 13, 503524.
Hesse, E. (2008). The Adult Attachment Interview: Protocol, method of analysis, and empirical studies. In Cassidy, J. & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 552598). New York: Guilford Press.
Holland, A. S., & Roisman, G. I. (2010). Adult attachment security and young adults' dating relationships over time: Self-reported, observational, and physiological evidence. Developmental Psychology, 46, 552557.
Kline, G. H., Julien, D., Baucom, B., Hartman, S. G., Gilbert, K., Gonzales, T., et al. (2004). The Interactional Dimensions Coding System: A global system for couple interactions. In Kerig, P. & Baucom, D. (Eds.), Couple observational coding systems (pp. 113126). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Kobak, R. R. (1993). The Adult Attachment Interview Q-set. Unpublished manuscript, University of Delaware, Newark.
Kobak, R. R., Cole, H. E., Ferenz-Gillies, R., Fleming, W. S., & Gamble, W. (1993). Attachment and emotion regulation during mother–teen problem solving: A control theory analysis. Child Development, 64, 231245.
Kobak, R. R., & Sceery, A. (1988). Attachment in late adolescence: Working models, affect regulation, and representations of self and others. Child Development, 59, 135146.
Kobak, R. R., & Zajac, K. (2011). Rethinking adolescent states of mind: A relationship/lifespan view of attachment and psychopathology. In Cicchetti, D. & Roisman, G. I. (Eds.), Minnesota symposia on child psychology: The origins and organization of adaptation and maladaptation (Vol. 36). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Larose, S., Bernier, A., & Soucy, N. (2005). Attachment as a moderator of the effect of security in mentoring on subsequent perceptions of mentoring and relationship quality with college teachers. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 399415.
Lyons-Ruth, K., & Jacobvitz, D. (2008). Attachment disorganization: Genetic factors parenting contexts and developmental transformation from infancy to adulthood. In Cassidy, J. & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 666697). New York: Guilford Press.
MacCallum, R. C., Zhang, S., Preacher, K. J., & Rucker, D. D. (2002). On the practice of dichotomization of quantitative variables. Psychological Methods, 7, 1940.
Main, M., & Goldwyn, R. (1998). Adult attachment scoring and classification systems: Version 6.2. Unpublished manuscript, University of California at Berkeley.
Paley, B., Cox, M., & Burchinal, M. R., & Payne, C. C. (1999). Attachment and marital functioning, comparison of spouses with continuous-secure, earned secure, dismissing and preoccupied attachment. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 580597.
Pearson, J. L., Cohn, D. A., Cowan, P. A., & Cowan, C. P. (1994). Earned and continuous security in adult attachment: Relation to depressive symptomatology and parenting style. Development and Psychopathology, 6, 359373.
Pianta, R. C., Egeland, B., & Adam, E. K. (1996). Adult attachment classification and self-reported psychiatric symptomatology as assessed by the MMPI-2. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 273281.
Roisman, G. I. (2006). The role of adult attachment security in non-romantic, non-attachment-related first interactions between same-sex strangers. Attachment & Human Development, 8, 341352.
Roisman, G. I. (2007). The psychophysiology of adult attachment relationships: Autonomic reactivity in marital and premarital interactions. Developmental Psychology, 43, 3953.
Roisman, G. I. (2009). Adult attachment: Toward a rapprochement of methodological cultures. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 122126.
Roisman, G. I., Clausell, E., Holland, A., Fortuna, K., & Elieff, C. (2008). Adult romantic relationships as contexts of human development: A multimethod comparison of same-sex couples with opposite-sex dating, engaged, and married dyads. Developmental Psychology, 44, 91101.
Roisman, G. I., Fortuna, K., & Holland, A. (2006) An experimental manipulation of retrospectively defined earned and continuous attachment security. Child Development, 77, 5971.
Roisman, G. I., Fraley, R. C., & Belsky, J. (2007). A taxometric study of the Adult Attachment Interview. Developmental Psychology, 43, 675686.
Roisman, G. I., & Haydon, K. C. (2011). Earned-security in retrospect: Emerging insights from longitudinal, experimental, and taxometric investigations. In Cicchetti, D. & Roisman, G. I. (Eds.), The origins and organization of adaptation and maladaptation: Minnesota symposia on child psychology (Vol. 36). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Roisman, G. I., Holland, A., Fortuna, K., Fraley, R. C., Clausell, E., & Clarke, A. (2007). The Adult Attachment Interview and self-reports of attachment style: An empirical rapprochement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 678697.
Roisman, G. I., Madsen, S. D., Hennighausen, K. H., Sroufe, L. A., & Collins, W. A. (2001). The coherence of dyadic behavior across parent–child and romantic relationships as mediated by the internalized representation of experience. Attachment and Human Development, 3, 156172.
Roisman, G. I., Padrón, E., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (2002). Earned secure attachment status in retrospect and prospect. Child Development, 73, 12041219.
Roisman, G. I., Tsai, J. L., & Chiang, K. H. S. (2004). The emotional integration of childhood experience: Physiological, facial expressive, and self-reported emotional response during the Adult Attachment Interview. Developmental Psychology, 40, 776789.
Spangler, G., & Zimmerman, P. (1999). Attachment representation and emotion regulation in adolescents: A psychobiological perspective on internal working models. Attachment & Human Development, 1, 270290.
Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., Carlson, E. A., & Collins, W. A. (2005). The development of the person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation From Birth to Adulthood. New York: Guilford Press.
University of Texas. (n.d.). R-squared in a hierarchical model. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from
van IJzendoorn, M. H. (1995). Adult attachment representations, parental responsiveness, and infant attachment: A meta-analysis on the predictive validity of the Adult Attachment Interview. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 387403.
Wampler, K. S., Riggs, B., & Kimball, T. G. (2004). Observing attachment behavior in couples: The Adult Attachment Behavior Q-Set (AABQ). Family Process, 43, 315335.
Waters, E., & Deane, K. E. (1985). Defining and assessing individual differences in attachmentrelationships: Q-methodology and the organization of behavior in infancy and early childhood. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1–2, Serial No. 209), 4165.
Waters, E., Hamilton, C. E., & Weinfeld, N. S. (2000). Stability of attachment security from infancy to adolescence and early adulthood: General introduction. Child Development, 71, 678683.
Whipple, N., Bernier, A., & Mageau, G. A. (2011). A dimensional approach to maternal attachment state of mind: Relations to maternal sensitivity and maternal autonomy-support. Developmental Psychology, 47, 396403.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

In search of security: The latent structure of the Adult Attachment Interview revisited

  • Katherine C. Haydon (a1), Glenn I. Roisman (a1) and Keith B. Burt (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.