Patterns of Stability in Adult Attachment: An Empirical Test of Two Models of Continuity and Change

Publication Date

January 2011


The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is published by the American Psychological Association,


One of the core assumptions of attachment theory is that attachment representations are stable over time. Unfortunately, the data on attachment stability have been ambiguous, and as a result, alternative theoretical perspectives have evolved to explain them. The objective of the present research was to evaluate alternative models of stability by studying adults in 2 intensive longitudinal investigations. Specifically, we assessed attachment representations in 1 sample (N=203) daily over a 30-day period and in the other sample (N=388) weekly over a year. Analyses show that the patterns of stability that exist in adult attachment are most consistent with a prototype model—a model assuming that there is a stable factor underlying temporary variations in attachment. Moreover, although the Big Five personality traits exhibited a pattern of stability that was similar to that of attachment, they did not account for the stability observed in attachment.


Psychology | Social Psychology