Attachment style and self-regulation: How our patterns in relationships reflect broader motivational styles
Individuals orient themselves in relationships using different goals and preoccupations, often conceptualized as four distinct attachment styles (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). Individuals also orient themselves in the social world more broadly using different motivational preferences and styles. Self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987) and regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997) are two frameworks used to conceptualize these motivational styles. In two studies we investigated the extent to which preoccupations in relationships reflected broader life goals. In Study 1, college participants reported attachment style and self-discrepancies (ideal and ought selves). In Study 2, community participants reported attachment style and regulatory focus (promotion and prevention orientations). Across two different samples, using distinct but complementary theoretical frameworks, we found a consistent pattern whereby a more approach-oriented relationship orientation (secure attachment), was related to a more approach-oriented general life orientation (lower actual-ideal discrepancy and greater promotion focus). Interestingly, attachment style was unrelated to avoidance-oriented motivational styles. These results suggest that motivations within relationships may be specifically related to growth motivations in broader aspects of life.
Blalock, DV; Franzese, AT; Machell, KA; Strauman, TJ
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