Attachment style

Kenneth N. Levy, William D. Ellison, Lori N. Scott, Samantha L. Bernecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Attachment theory, developed by Bowlby to explain human bonding, has profound implications for conducting and adapting psychotherapy. We summarize the prevailing definitions and measures of attachment style. We review the results of three meta-analyses examining the association between attachment anxiety, avoidance, and security and psychotherapy outcome. Fourteen studies were synthesized, which included 19 separate therapy cohorts with a combined sample size of 1,467. Attachment anxiety showed a d of -46 with posttherapy outcome, while attachment security showed a d of.37 association with outcome. Attachment avoidance was uncorrelated with outcome. The age and gender composition of the samples moderated the relation between attachment security and outcome: samples with a higher proportion of female clients and a higher mean age showed a smaller relation between security and outcome. We discuss the practice implications of these findings and related research on the link between attachment and the therapy relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of clinical psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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