Abstract

Adult attachment style has consequences for mental health, interpersonal functioning and emotion regulation. This occurs partly deliberately, also referred to as explicit, and partly on an automatic level outside of conscious awareness, also referred to as implicit. Whereas explicit adult attachment can be assessed with self-report instruments, measurement of implicit adult attachment requires indirect methods. This paper describes the psychometric properties of two Implicit Association Tests measuring general adult attachment in a population sample. The study evaluated the reliability and the validity of the Avoidant Attachment IAT (ANX-IAT) and the Anxious Attachment IAT (AVOID-IAT). Validity was evaluated against self-report measures of adult attachment style (RQ), psychopathology (SQ-48), and well-being (MHC-SF). The split-half reliabilities of both IATs were good; the test-retest reliability of the ANX-IAT was adequate; however the AVOID-IAT had low test-retest reliability. Both IATs did not explain variance in psychopathology additional to explicit measures. The AVOID-IAT showed added value over explicit measurement of avoidant attachment in explaining variance in well-being, particularly regarding emotional and psychological well-being. The ANX-IAT did not explain variance in any measure of well-being additional to the explicit measure of anxious attachment. Our findings provide a basis from which more valid IATs measuring general adult attachment can be developed. Furthermore, they suggest that implicit avoidant attachment might be related to well-being, particularly emotional and psychological well-being. However, further research is needed to investigate the role of implicit general adult attachment in mental health and to optimize the two IATs in terms of validity before clinical use is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-103
Number of pages16
JournalPsychologica Belgica
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021

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