Partner Buffering of Attachment Insecurity

Jeffry A. Simpson, Nickola C. Overall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Compared with securely attached people, insecurely attached people have romantic relationships that are less happy and more unstable, but the quality of their relationships should depend on how their partners regulate them. Some partners find ways to buffer (emotionally and behaviorally regulate) insecurely attached individuals, which helps such individuals feel better and behave more constructively and improves the relationship. Understanding when and how this important interpersonal process works requires a dyad-centered approach. The present research describes core tenets of attachment theory and the two forms of attachment insecurity (anxiety and avoidance) and presents our dyadic regulation model of insecurity buffering, which explains how and why certain types of buffering behaviors soothe the worries and improve the relationship perceptions and behaviors of anxious or avoidant people. Studies that illustrate ways in which partners can successfully buffer the insecure reactions of anxious and avoidant individuals are reviewed, and other traits and social contexts to which our model can be applied are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-59
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to J. A. Simpson (R01-MH49599) and from the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund (UOA0811) to N. C. Overall.


  • attachment insecurity
  • attachment theory
  • conflict
  • partner regulation


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