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Individual differences in desired social support: The role of attachment

Mary Kim Christy, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Two studies examined individual differences among persons of different adult attachment styles in desire and perceptions of social support. It was hypothesized that working models of self and other that comprise the attachment system are related to perceptions of social support interactions. Study 1 explored the desire for different types of social support of 244 college students. Preoccupied respondents reported a stronger desire than dismissing avoidant respondents for social support of all types with the exception of companionship. In contrast with the other attachment groups, dismissing avoidant individuals did not like any type of social support any more or any less than any other type of social support. Study 2 examined how helpful individuals of different attachment styles found emotional support, problem-focused support, esteem-bolstering support, and advice, and how these perceptions were related to behavioral choices. Secure subjects found all types of support more helpful than the insecure attachment groups. Fearful avoidant and preoccupied subjects were less likely than other subjects to choose to interact with a person providing esteem-bolstering support. Furthermore, dismissing avoidant and preoccupied subjects found advice less helpful than other groups. The findings of both studies lend support to the hypothesis that differences in working models of self and other are related to the way individuals perceive social support from others.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

Christy, Mary Kim, "Individual differences in desired social support: The role of attachment" (1993). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9329583.