The Attachment Security Enhancement Model (ASEM) posits that attachment anxiety decreases when people revise their negative working model of self, whereas attachment avoidance decreases when people revise their negative working model of others. These revisions are expected to occur in diagnostic situations that provide relevant information about the self and close others. Guided by this theory, the current research assessed whether state perceptions of oneself (state self-efficacy, state self-esteem) and of one’s spouse (state perceived partner responsiveness [PPR]) following a personal stressor discussion provide an impetus for changing trait-level perceptions and decreasing the relevant attachment insecurity dimension over time. In a sample of 164 newly married couples, we found that people who reported greater post-discussion state self-efficacy and state self-esteem reported greater increases in trait self-efficacy and trait self-esteem over the following year. These changes to the model of self in turn predicted greater decreases in attachment anxiety over that year, consistent with the ASEM. Regarding perceptions of one’s spouse, neither state nor trait PPR predicted declines in attachment avoidance, and state PPR did not predict changes in trait level perceptions. Finally, we observed some ASEM-inconsistent changes in attachment insecurity: Increases in trait PPR predicted declines in attachment anxiety, and increases in trait self-esteem and self-efficacy predicted declines in attachment avoidance. These findings suggest that personal stressor discussions may catalyze changes in trait perceptions and attachment change. Additionally, this work shows that improving the model of self and the model of others promotes attachment security but that the processes for reducing attachment anxiety and avoidance may not be entirely separable.
- attachment security enhancement model (ASEM)
- close relationships
- perceived partner responsiveness
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science