Social Support is a Balancing Act: Mitigating Attachment Anxiety by Supporting Independence and Dependence

Brett K. Jakubiak, Julian D. Fuentes, Elina R. Sun, Brooke C. Feeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Due to the personal and relationship costs associated with attachment anxiety, there has been substantial interest in identifying factors that reduce attachment anxiety over time and buffer attachment anxiety in the moment. We integrated the Attachment Security Enhancement Model (ASEM) and the dependency paradox based in attachment theory to derive novel predictions about how perceived partner support predicts attachment anxiety prospectively (one year later) and concurrently. Newlyweds (N = 326) reported their perceptions that their partners support their personal goals (i.e., perceived support for independence needs) and their perceptions that their partners provide reassurance/responsiveness (i.e., perceived support for dependence needs). We found that greater perceived support for personal goals predicted decreases in attachment anxiety over one year only among people who also perceived high partner reassurance/responsiveness, consistent with the idea that support for independence is most effective when partners also support dependence needs. We also observed evidence that this pattern was most pronounced among people with higher attachment anxiety. Regarding concurrent links, we found that perceiving greater partner reassurance/responsiveness predicted lower concurrent attachment anxiety, whereas perceived support for independent goals did not. Together, these findings extend the ASEM by highlighting that attachment anxiety declines over time when partners are perceived to support one’s needs for independence and dependence simultaneously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2127-2148
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Adult attachment
  • attachment anxiety
  • goals
  • social support
  • working models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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