Patterns of object relations and object representation in adult attachment styles

Lawrence R Kaplan, Fordham University


Attachment theory and object relations theory are the two currently dominant perspectives on the development of human relatedness, yet little attention has been focused on how these two theories relate. After moving in divergent directions for many years, these two theories have more recently exhibited a convergent trend, due mainly to the development of interest among attachment theorists in adult attachment and in a mental representational model. The aim of this study was to examine characteristics of object relations and object representation within and between the major adult attachment styles. It was expected that secure attachment would be associated with satisfactory object relations and with object representation that was mature from a cognitive-developmental standpoint. The subjects were 134 Fordham University undergraduates. They completed questionnaire packets consisting of a demographic survey, two attachment measures (the Adult Attachment Scale and the "Love Quiz"), three object relations measures (the Family Interaction Questionnaire, the Bell Object Relations Inventory, and a semantic differential), and a short-form Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. Questions pertained to self, parents, and lovers. Means and standard deviations were calculated for all variables. After an initial one-factor MANCOVA established an overall significant attachment type effect independent of social desirability covariation, results were analyzed by ANOVAs, multiple regression, and correlational analysis to determine object relational and representational patterns among the three major attachment types (secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent) and three component factors of attachment type: interpersonal distance (Close); Anxiety; and tendency to trust (Depend). Non-pathological scores on the Bell Object Relations Inventory were strongly associated with secure attachment, high Close and Depend scores, and low Anxiety scores. Positive evaluation of mother, but not of father or of self, was also associated with secure attachment. Further, it was associated with high Depend (as were low punitive ratings of mother, father, and self) and high Close (as were positive self evaluation and a high mother activity rating). No significant findings emerged with regard to level of parental object representation. Some possible explanations of the pattern of findings were considered, and suggestions for future research proposed.

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Recommended Citation

Kaplan, Lawrence R, "Patterns of object relations and object representation in adult attachment styles" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9313764.