Idiographic assessment of attachment relationships: Construction and validation of scales for use in narrative psychotherapy

R. van Geel, Tilly Houtmans, Mathijs van der Zande

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this study the focus was on the development and validation of scales that can be used in an attachment-based narrative form of psychotherapy/counseling. One hundred and six participants completed an online survey, in which they were asked to select one significant troublesome relationship (past or present), to describe the nature of this relationship in a couple of sentences and to characterize the relationship by means of the list of 49 attachment items. By employing exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis (N = 106), a six-factor model emerged covering four classical attachment prototypes: (I) security; (II) anxiety (preoccupation with relationships, fear of rejection); (III) dismissive avoidance (i.e., defensive separation/denial of attachment need; and (IV) fearful avoidance (avoidance/alienation, threat). In two validation studies, the interpersonal and affective meaning of these scales were examined by using instruments that accentuate agentic and communal interpersonal orientations in human contact. In a subsequent qualitative study, we used a cluster-based classification into attachment groups for the exhaustive screening of the content of (a selection of) 40 texts of 40 persons. This hermeneutic approach disclosed characteristic themes for each of the secure, preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant prototypes which are discussed in detail. In narrative psychotherapy a thematic overview according to the attachment typology may be helpful in fine-tuning the therapeutic process, in that it may increase a client’s awareness of attachment issues and associated (dysfunctional) emotional reactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-136
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Personality Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • adult attachment styles
  • self-narrative
  • psychotherapy
  • Self-confrontation method (SCM)
  • interpersonal circumplex


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