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Developmental Differences in Adolescents' and Young Adults' Use of Mothers, Fathers, Best Friends, and Romantic Partners to Fulfill Attachment Needs

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 35 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2006 Pages: 127-140
Dorothy Markiewicz; Heather Lawford; Anna Beth Doyle; Natalie Haggart
Date Published
February 2006
14 pages
This Canadian study examined adolescents' and young adults' reports on how key potential attachment figures (persons in their worlds who provide an opportunity for supportive interactions) were used to share interests and problems, provide protective nurturing, and represent a resource in time of trouble.
Mothers were found to be an important source of emotional security across the age ranges of participants: 12-15, 16-19, and 20-28. They were used as a source of emotional security consistently more than fathers or peers for all age groups, regardless of whether the individual had a romantic partner; however, individuals in the two older groups were less dependent on mothers living nearby and being available for personal consultation and emotional security. Interactions with best friends were used most often as a resource for feeling emotionally safe, but they were used less by young adults compared to early adolescents, as well as by older adolescents who had romantic partners. Romantic partners were used most and more than others for immediate consultation in time of difficulty, but were used less by early adolescents than by the older age group. Fathers were selected less than other attachment figures for all the emotional needs examined. Those who were insecurely attached to their mothers turned to them less and to romantic partners more than did those securely attached to their mothers. The authors discuss implications of these findings for developmental changes in adolescent attachments. Participants were 682 students grouped into the 3 age categories. They were recruited from two public high schools, two junior colleges, and a university in a large Canadian urban area. A questionnaire was used to obtain demographic information and information on behaviors and preferences regarding key persons they relied on to help meet significant emotional needs. 4 tables and 36 references