First, attachment figures should be responsive to the individual’s proximity seeking attempts in times of need. Second, these figures should provide a physical and emotional safe haven—i.e., they should facilitate distress alleviation and be a source of support and comfort. Third, attachment figures should provide a secure base  from which the individual can explore and learn about the world and develop his or her own capacities and personality while feeling confident that care and support will be available if needed. When these provisions are supplied, a person feels secure and safe, and proximity seeking for the purpose of protection and care is terminated. …

The association between secure attachment and relationship satisfaction cannot be explained by other personality factors, such as the ‘‘big five’’ factors. …

Secure individuals develop a caring attitude toward relationship partners and become active agents responsible for their partners’ welfare and relationship quality rather than passive recipients of caring and comfort. These qualities seem to be part of an autonomous rather than a dependent personality (Alonso-Arbiol, Shaver, & Ya´rnoz, 2002). Overall, our model implies that attachment figure availability facilitates the autonomous management of distress.

Advances in Experimental Social Psychology

Volume 35, 2003, Pages 53-152

Publisher Summary

This chapter introduces the basic concepts in Bowlby’s attachment theory, covering both the normative aspects of the attachment behavioral system and individual differences. It presents an integrative model of attachment-system dynamics in adulthood. The attachment system is an inborn regulatory device that has important implications for personality and interpersonal behavior. The model describes the goals of each attachment strategy and their psychological manifestations and consequences. The chapter introduces major individual differences in the functioning of the attachment system. It presents a theoretical framework that makes sense of the cognitive operations and dynamic processes involved in the activation and functioning of the attachment system in adulthood. For this, a control-system model is proposed that integrates recent findings with earlier theoretical proposals by Bowlby. The chapter summarizes the diverse empirical studies motivated by the attachment theory and reviews a variety of unresolved conceptual and empirical issues that provide an agenda for future research.


Mario Mikulincer, Phillip R. Shaver