Download Poster (430 KB)
Attachment theory has often been studied as a trait-like variable which has reliably predicted outcomes in numerous domains. The underlying mechanism to attachment is its role in affect regulation, and theories about the systems involved outline two separate processes depending on attachment security: primary attachment strategies and secondary attachment strategies. This paper focuses on the secondary attachment strategies, outlining the behavioral and neurocognitive evidence in support of Mikulincer, Pereg, and Shaver’s (2003) models of hyperactivation and deactivation affect regulation systems. Attachment anxiety’s hyperactivation system is well-supported in both behavioral and neural domains, but the attachment avoidance deactivation system is only consistently supported in behavioral domains. As an important step forward in understanding the affect regulation system in humans, this paper attempts to fit the model of attachment affect regulation into an emotion regulation model proposed by Etkin, Büchel, & Gross (2015). It is concluded that because attachment systems are already understood as internal working models, and because Etkin, Büchel, & Gross’ (2015) model delineates a system that relies on internal working models, attachment and general emotion regulation research can be successfully integrated. Additionally, studies across the domains of attachment and emotion regulation show relatively consistent neural patterns of affect regulation, with the secondary attachment strategies coinciding with worry and suppression strategies outlined in general emotion regulation research. The adaptation of Etkin, Büchel & Gross’ (2015) model in attachment research will allow for meaningful differentiations between attachment affect regulation systems, however, more research connecting the attachment affect regulation and emotion regulation subfields is necessary to understand the cognitive systems behind emotion regulation.
Hart, Kate, "What's on Your Mind? Applying a Neurocognitive Model of Emotion Regulation to Attachment" (2020). Psychology. 12.