The Relation of Insecure Attachment States of Mind and Romantic Attachment Styles to Adolescent Aggression in Romantic Relationships
Attach Hum Dev. Sep 2010; 12(5): 463–481.
Erin M. Miga, Amanda Hare, Joseph P. Allen, and Nell Manning
The attachment dimensions used for the purposes of the current study include Insecure-Dismissing and Insecure-Preoccupied states of mind. Insecure-dismissing states of mind reflect the inability or unwillingness to recount attachment experiences, paucity of emotional content surrounding discourse, idealization of attachment figures that contradicts specific, reported experiences, and lack of evidence of valuing attachment.
Insecure- preoccupied states of mind reflect rambling, extensive but unfocused discourse about attachment experiences, and/or angry preoccupation with attachment figures.
A preoccupied state of mind at age 14 was found predictive of verbally aggressive behavior toward romantic partners at age 18.
This finding is consistent with the notion that attachment insecurity can be characterized in part as an unsuccessful attempt to adaptively regulate one’s emotions (Allen & Manning, 2007), particularly in an emotionally evocative situation, such as during conflict.
Similarly, the attachment interview can be emotionally challenging for individuals, and attachment preoccupation as captured in the AAI is characterized by adolescents’ undercontrolled, wandering, often angry discourse when describing their childhood experiences with their caregivers.
The preoccupied state of mind is thought to activate conflicting thoughts and feelings regarding a history of unpredictable relationships and may lead to anger and hostility when distress is encountered in an intimate relationship (Simpson et al, 1996).
As a result, adolescents may engage in verbally aggressive tactics, such as manipulation, name-calling, and guilt induction, due to a diminished ability to successfully regulate anger responses during conflict.
One additional possibility is that preoccupied individuals may be verbally aggressive in a conscious (or unconscious) attempt to emotionally engage their partner, so as to assure themselves that their partner remains emotionally invested in the relationship.