Hitting the Bull’s Eye: Attachment Representations and the Organization of Social Networks


  • Elaine Scharfe


Hazan and Zeifman were the first to explore Bowlby’s proposition that adults would organize their attachment relationships into a hierarchy and since then considerable research has explored both the structure and function of attachment hierarchies using different methodologies. In this study, previous findings establishing an association between attachment and networks were replicated and the associations between network members were explored. First, consistent with expectations, the findings provided additional evidence that romantic partners do not necessarily jump to the top of the hierarchy and young adults continue to place parents, in particular mothers, at the top of their hierarchy. Consistent with previous work, security was associated with placing others closer to the self and attachment avoidance was associated with placing others farther from the self on an electronic bull’s eye. Furthermore, to date, this is the first study to examine the association between attachment representations and the organization of network members. Interestingly, security was associated with placing network members closer to each other and attachment avoidance was associated with placing network members farther from each other. This finding suggests that individuals with high attachment security may be more motivated to allow members of their social networks to mingle whereas individuals with high attachment avoidance scores seemed to be motivated to keep their network members at a distance. The results of this study extend our understanding how attachment representations may influence the organization of our social networks.