The Neurobiology of Adult Attachment
MetadataShow full item record
Attachment styles and the experiences of parenting that underpin attachment styles have important effects throughout the lifespan. Research on the neurobiology of human attachment has begun to identify neural correlates of attachment styles. The present study adds to that body of research and confirms previous findings on correlations between attachment style and memories of parenting. My main goal was to test the first time the hypothesis that baseline neural activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) would be correlated adult attachment security. Previous research has identified: 1) a correlation between baseline neural activity in the left DLPFC and approach motivation; 2) a correlation between baseline neural activity in the left DLPFC and infant attachment style; and 3) a correlation between the willingness of toddlers to freely explore a new environment when in the presence of their attachment figures and attachment style. Based on these previous findings, I hypothesized that adult attachment security, as indicted by “confidence” scores on the Adult Attachment Questionnaire (ASQ), and parenting memories, as measured by the EMBU questionnaire, would be positively correlated with baseline neural activity in the left DLPFC. I also explored correlations between responses to the ASQ and to the EMBU, hypothesizing that attachment security, as measured by confidence scores on the ASQ, would be positively correlated with memories of parental emotional warmth and negatively correlated with memories of parental rejection. As hypothesized, I found a significant positive correlation between confidence, the ASQ factor reflecting a secure attachment orientation, and neural activity in the left DLPFC. Because the same correlation between attachment security and neural activity in the left DLPFC has been found in infants, my finding suggests that this may be one of the mechanisms by which attachment styles developed in infancy persist into adulthood. The left DLPFC has also been associated with approach motivation. Therefore my finding suggests that more confident, or securely attached, adults have higher approach motivation. I also found that adult attachment style as measured by the ASQ was correlated with memories of parenting as measured by the EMBU. “Memories of father emotional warmth” was the most significant EMBU factor relating to attachment style.