Pathological attachment and attachment style in late adolescence

D. K. Lapsley, N. M. Varshney, M. C. Aalsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Attachment theory is frequently invoked to account for patterns of adaptation within relationships. West and Sheldon derived a measure of dysfunctional adult attachment from Bowlby's theory. Four patterns are identified: compulsive self-reliance; caregiving; care-seeking; and angry withdrawal. The aim of this study was to assess the psychometric properties of this promising measure, and to assess its ability to predict symptomatology relative to measures of attachment style. Participants included 209 late adolescents who were involved in committed relationships. They responded to categorical and continuous measures of attachment style and various measures of symptomatology and college adjustment. The four dimensions of pathological attachment showed strong internal consistency and few gender differences. Compulsive care-seeking, angry withdrawal and compulsive self-reliance were particularly strong predictors of psychiatric symptomatology and insecure attachment style. Attachment pathology and insecure attachment style predicted symptomatology similarly, though variations were evident depending on how style was assessed. This study is the first to provide evidence of convergent, discriminant and predictive validity for this measure. Directions for future research are noted. (C) 2000 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-155
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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