Attachment and emotion transmission within romantic relationships: Merging intrapersonal and interpersonal perspectives

Ashley K. Randall, Emily A. Butler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Scopus citations


    The attachment system is responsible for emotional-motivational bonding with others and is associated with individual emotion regulation strategies (avoidance-disengagement; anxiety-hypervigilance); however, little is known how these individual differences in emotion regulation strategies influence partners' interpersonal emotional experiences. Prior research examining the link between individual differences in attachment avoidance and anxiety and emotional connectedness in couples has interestingly shown counter-intuitive effects of individual attachment styles on couples' shared emotions, such that attachment anxiety was associated with the lowest levels of emotional synchrony (Butner, Diamond, & Hicks, 2007). These results beg for additional research on whether and how individual differences in attachment styles moderate the transmission of emotion between partners. Using daily diaries and second-by-second measures of emotional experience from 30 couples, it was hypothesised that couples high in attachment avoidance (disengagement) would show lower levels, whereas couples high in attachment anxiety (hypervigilance) would show higher levels of emotion transmission. Results were counter to our predictions; attachment avoidance increased - and attachment anxiety decreased - emotion transmission between partners. Findings suggest attachment dynamics may not have the same effect on couples' joint emotional functioning in a dyadic context as they do on individuals' emotional functioning.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere10
    JournalJournal of Relationships Research
    StatePublished - 2013


    • attachment
    • emotion transmission
    • romantic relationships

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Applied Psychology


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