- Attachment Theory
- Interpersonal Relationships
- Social Cognition
My primary research interest is adult attachment theory. Attachment theory addresses the way in which relationships influence personality and how personality then influences subsequent relationships. I am interested in both the personality component and the relationships component of attachment theory. One of my most recent studies followed 180 couples from the period just before the birth of their first baby to the baby’s second birthday. Our focus was on how marital dynamics change during this stressful period of time. We were especially interested in how people’s attachment styles influenced their behavior during this transition. A number of important findings have emerged from the study. For example, we found that men with insecure attachment styles become increasingly dissatisfied with the marriages over time if they engaged in a lot of childcare activities. Men with secure attachment styles were unaffected by childcare duties. Another finding that has emerged from this study is that men and women are more likely to be depressed if they perceive their partner as unwilling or unable to provide emotional support to them. This was true, however, only among people with an anxious attachment style. People with secure and avoidant styles were not affected by their perceptions of the availability of emotional support. There is much more to be learned from this data set. Another recent study examined how members of couples seek information about themselves and about their partners. One thing we learned in this study was that more avoidant dating partners reported that they did not know their partners well and did not want to receive additional information about them, even if it was directly relevant to their relationship. Another thing we learned is dating partners high in attachment anxiety tend to seek out negative information about themselves from their partners. Finally, a third recent study was one in which we assessed the ability of dating partners to “read” their partners feelings and thoughts during a discussion of the thing that created the most conflict in their relationship. We found that the more avoidant individuals were significantly less accurate in their reading of their partners. Most of my future will continue to focus on attachment theory. A few examples of what research I’ll be doing are as follows. I’m interested in studying how more avoidant individuals repress painful memories of their relationships and other aspects of the cognitive systems of more and less secure individuals. I am also interested in the self-concept and self-esteem of people with different attachment styles, and I’m interested in how conflicts are resolved in relationships. Finally, I am interested in the degree to which people with different attachment styles are satisfied with their relationships and how their relationships are related to depression, anxiety, and well-being.
- 2002-2007, Adult Attachment, Stress, and Relationship Well-being. National Institute of Mental Health,
Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., & Winterheld, H. A. (forthcoming). Attachment working models twist memories of relationship events. Psychological Science.
Simpson, J. A., & Rholes, W. S. (forthcoming). Attachment relationships: Milestones and future directions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Friedman, M., Rholes, W. S., Simpson, J. A., Bond, M. H., Diaz-Loving, R., Chan, C. (in press).
Attachment avoidance and the cultural fit hypothesis: A cross-cultural investigation. Personal Relationships.
Mak, M . C. K., Bond, M. H., Simpson, J. A., & Rholes. W. S. (in press). Adult attachment, perceived support, and depressive symptoms in Chinese and American cultures. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Simpson, J. A., & Rholes, W. S. (in press). Attachment, perceived support, and the transition to parenthood: Social policy and health implications. In J. Dovidio (Ed.), Social Issues and Policy Review. The Society for the Study of Social Issues.