Better Living With Technology

Navigating the profits and pitfalls of modern screen time

Romantic Attachment and the Dangers of Social Media, Part 1

Our attachment style predicts our behavior in romantic relationships as well has how we use technology. Determine your attachment style and get tips on how to use—and not use—social media in your romantic relationship. Read More

Is it possible for attachment

Is it possible for attachment style to change situationally--for example, bisexual people having two different attachment styles for male vs female relationships? Is it possible for attachment style to change through significant events--for example, a parent who was distant due to depression recovering and providing more support?

Good question

My apologies in advance that, like most psychological research, there isn't a clear and easy answer yet.

Different researchers take different perspectives on how malleable attachment is. As with many psychological variables, there isn't an easy chemistry test we can do because attachment is measured by the person self-reporting how they feel. Unfortunately, sometimes people aren't the most reliable sources of information about themselves.

Although some say that attachment can vary relationship to relationship, perhaps a more common supported idea is that while attachment is stable, other psychological factors or features of the relationship influence how attachment actually manifests. For example, your attachment style as well as your partner's attachment style is likely to influence each of your individual behaviors. Your individual behaviors are going to also be affected by your partner's behaviors. Thus, you may have considered yourself a preoccupied individual, but being in a relationship with a secure partner may make you behave less like a preoccupied individual. If that relationship ends, though, you would probably react like a preoccupied individual, not a secure individual, because your secure behaviors were evoked by your partner's secure behaviors.

Some researchers also suggest that attachment can change over the lifespan. Others say that attachment doesn't change, but we as individuals learn behaviors that work best for our attachment style which may make it feel like we've shifted styles. Again, it's hard to parse apart. Let's take the distant parent example. Maybe I am a fearful individual, but through cognitive therapy I've learned to behave in a more secure fashion. My parent has also become more supportive, which helps me behave securely. If challenged, however--let's say my parent withdraws again, or I start feeling depressed on my own--I may be less capable of showing my learned secure behaviors and my "true" fearful attachment style may start to show. Now, did I change styles from fearful to secure to fearful again, or was I fearful all along? If the only way attachment can be measured is by asking the person directly, we can't really tell the difference between those two possibilities.

In the future we'll probably have more data on brain processing and such that will demonstrate more clearly whether or not attachment changes in relationships or over time.

Other research

Hey, Jesse. Great article. The last line, in itself, sums up the message you are trying to convey. Do you think you could possibly link some more research studies on the topic?

Social media

The attitude of the father should be authoritative but always with confidence.

Message from Mike

Create your own social economy at

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Jesse Fox, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University and director of the Virtual Environment, Communication Technology, and Online Research (VECTOR) Lab.


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