Self-Efficacy and Declines Over Time in Attachment Anxiety During the Transition to Parenthood

Arriaga, Ximena B.; Eller, Jami; Kumashiro, Madoka; Rholes, W. Steven and Simpson, Jeffry A.. 2021. Self-Efficacy and Declines Over Time in Attachment Anxiety During the Transition to Parenthood. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 12(5), pp. 658-666. ISSN 1948-5506 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Attachment anxiety can decline in relationships but little is known about how or why. A new framework—the Attachment Security Enhancement Model (ASEM)—suggests that what allays current (momentary) insecurity may not necessarily reduce attachment anxiety across time. This article differentiates momentary versus extended attachment processes by examining concurrent versus longitudinal associations. Cohabitating partners (N = 137 couples) were examined over a 2-year period as they became first-time parents, a transition that could change attachment tendencies. Consistent with ASEM predictions: (1) Anxiously attached spouses who perceived more proximal and sensitive reassurance from their partners felt less concurrent attachment anxiety but not less anxiety across time, and (2) attachment anxiety declined across time when spouses derived personal competence and self-efficacy from their new parenting role. These results document an important distinction between mitigating insecure thoughts and feelings that might reinforce attachment anxiety, versus encountering new experiences that may actually revise chronic insecurity.

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The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: The data set was obtained with funding to Jeffry A. Simpson and W. Steve Rholes from the National Institute of Mental Health (No. R01MH49599). The ideas were developed with funding to Ximena Arriaga and Madoka Kumashiro from the National Science Foundation (No. 1531226) and the Economic and Social Research Council (No. ES/N013182/1).


adult attachment security, relationship quality, transition to parenthood

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18 May 2020Accepted
10 July 2020Published Online
1 July 2021Published

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Date Deposited:

28 Jul 2020 15:44

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 05:05

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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