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Anxious and avoidant attachment styles are negatively related to indicators of evolutionary fitness

Recent research challenges the notion that insecure attachment has some evolutionary adaptive benefits. It appears that secure attachment may have benefits for individuals, improving their chances of producing offspring, while anxious and avoidant attachment styles reduce the odds of producing offspring. The new findings appear in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

Attachment styles, which refer to the way individuals form and maintain relationships throughout life, are regularly explained through an evolutionary lens. Yet, despite this widespread conceptualization of attachment styles from an evolutionary viewpoint, empirical investigations into their direct associations with fitness are sparse.

“Attachment, both the affective relation between a child and a caregiver and romantic attachment – between the mating partners, is one of those major topics in psychology. It is studied in developmental, social psychology, but also in the psychology of individual differences,” explained study author Janko Međedović, a senior research associate at the Institute of Criminological and Sociological Research in Belgrade.

“Due to a fact that the processes similar to attachment exist in many species, psychologists often posit that attachment is evolutionary adaptation with multiple functions – enabling caregiving to babies and children (thus facilitating survival) and later in life enabling successful mating (thus facilitating reproduction). Therefore, secure attachment, both to caregivers and in a romantic context is mostly considered to be adaptive.”

“However, there are individual differences in attachment – individuals who are not secure exhibit anxious or avoidant attachment behavior (some authors believe that there are other types of insecure attachment but we used this model in our current research),” Međedović told PsyPost. “Despite evident maladaptive behavioral consequences of insecure attachment, there are scholars that even they can produce some adaptive outcomes.”

“Interestingly, the research that directly test these opposing hypotheses are extremely rare. Hence, we conducted the study…


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