Let’s Detach From Traditional Ways of Testing!

As you may know, attachment is a renowned and fundamental concept in psychology. Indeed, besides explaining and predicting behavior in relationships, attachment styles also appear to influence health and occupational outcomes. Interestingly, although a lot of studies and tests assess attachment styles based on intimate relationships, few look at attachment styles based on other kinds of relationships. More specifically, when doing an adult relationship attachment test, you may have noticed that the majority of the questions revolve around romantic relationships (e.g. I am comfortable being affectionate with my partner) while almost none discusses relationships in the workplace.

However, based on current research, it turns out that attachment does predict job attitudes and behaviors as well as job satisfaction (Harms, 2011). For example, while insecurely attached individuals experience stress and negative emotions in the workplace, securely attached people manage to regulate their emotions more, engage in higher trust relationships and take greater risks. In other words, securely attached individuals seem to be more confident and to perform better, hence to be more satisfied at work than insecurely attached individuals.

Therefore, because attachment styles predict organizational outcomes, it would seem logical to, conversely, be able to determine one’s style by looking at his or her organizational behavior. Indeed, because assessing attachment based solely on one kind of relationship may actually threaten reliability, it is time to create standardized self-report questionnaires that are more comprehensive and that include situations at work. In other words, by adding statements such as “I am able to make decisions without my colleagues” and by asking a wide variety of participants to rate the extent to which they relate to them (using a Likert-scale), we would be more able to analyze attachment patterns, look for correlations across situations as well as make comparisons, draw conclusions and ultimately make some generalizations.

Consequently, we would not only increase the reliability of the current attachment style tests, but also their validity. However, before adding new items, you would recall that it is important to select the items well, to test them and to modify them if necessary. Also, it is important to revise the administration and scoring procedures in order to minimize the risks of bias and error. Finally, to push it even further, it would be interesting to add items about friend and family situations in order to be able to make more thorough assessments about interpersonal relationships and determine people’s attachment style with greater confidence.

Please feel free to help us create statements that will complement and enrich traditional adult attachment tests!

Harms, P.D. (2011). Adult Attachment Styles in the Workplace. Human Resource Management Review (21), 285–296.

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