Changes in attachment orientations across the transition to parenthood

Jeffry A. Simpson, W. Steven Rholes, Lorne Campbell, Carol L. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


According to attachment theory, individuals should experience changes in attachment orientations (styles) if they encounter experiences or events that strongly reinforce or directly contradict the major concerns of their existing orientations. Systematic changes should be most evident across stressful life transitions. Wives and husbands expecting their first child completed scales measuring their attachment orientations along with perceptions of themselves, their spouses, and their marriage both 6 weeks before and 6 months after childbirth. As predicted, women became more ambivalent across the transition if they entered parenthood perceiving less spousal support and more spousal anger, with perceptions of anger having stronger impact. Women who entered parenthood seeking less spousal support and those whose husbands were higher in avoidance became more avoidant across the transition. Men who perceived themselves as providing more prenatal support to their wives became less avoidant. These results extend attachment theory and research in novel directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-331
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH49599 supported this research. Jeffry A. Simpson and W. Steven Rholes contributed equally to this research.


  • Attachment orientations
  • Change
  • Marriage
  • Parenthood
  • Working models

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