Secure Attachment Conceptualizations: The Influence of General and Specific Relational Models on Conflict Beliefs and Conflict Resolution Styles


  • Karin du Plessis
  • Dave Clarke
  • Cheryl C. Woolley


Attachment theory focuses on the cognitive models that underlie our interactions with attachment figures. Global or generalized mental models are thought to develop on the basis of attachment models with parents and might form the initial basis of internal working models in novel relationships. However, as discrepant information presents itself in a new relationship, it is thought that specific relational models develop. When conflict arises it can threaten the attachment bonds of the relationship. An Internet survey of 134 individuals in couple relationships was conducted to test the influence of secure parental and partner attachment conceptualizations on romantic relationship variables (conflict beliefs and conflict resolution styles). Results indicated that for the most part relationship variables were influenced by current secure romantic attachment conceptualizations. Analyses also indicated differential gender results for positive problem solving in terms of secure parental and partner attachment. Secure parental attachment was also found to impact on the report of compliant behavior during conflict resolution. Lastly, the belief that arguing is threatening was found to be impacted by an interaction effect between parental and partner attachment. In general secure partner attachment was more predictive of
conflict resolution behavior and conflict beliefs, than a global attachment model. However, it would appear that the global attachment model can be activated in the context of the
current relationship under certain conditions. This research lends support to the notion that generalized and specific attachment representations impacts differently on close relationship functioning, and encourages a further mapping of relationship functions in this regard.