The association between attachment style and uni- and bi-directional pursuer-distancer patterns in couples: A clinical sample of couples in counseling

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Virginia Tech


This study examined the relationship between adult attachment style and pursuer-distancer patterns in couples. Both uni- and bi-directional pursuer-distancer patterns were studied. Participants were 67 individuals (including 32 couples) in therapy. Each partner, independent of the other, completed an anonymous questionnaire containing the Multi-item Measure of Adult Romantic Attachment (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) and a four-item measure of pursuer-distancer pattern designed for this study. The relationship between male dismissing attachment style and the presence of a pursuer-distancer pattern in the couple approached significance. Analyses of attachment style and the specific direction of the pursuer-distancer pattern as a couple-level variable were non-significant. However, when self-report of pursuer-distancer pattern was analyzed as an individual-level variable, a significant relationship was found between pursuing and a preoccupied attachment style and between distancing and a dismissing attachment style. Fearful attachment style was related to bi-directional pursuer-distancer pattern when measured by partner's report but not when measured by self-report. Dismissing and fearful attachment styles in males were related to lower relationship satisfaction in males and females. Pursuer-distancer patterns (particularly female-pursue and bi-directional patterns) were significantly related to lower relationship satisfaction in males and females. No relationship was found between attachment style or pursuer-distancer pattern report and the gender of the participant. Implications for treating pursuer-distancer patterns couples are discussed.



distance, adult attachment, couples, closeness, pursuer-distancer