Attachment style and friendship characteristics in college students

Date of Completion

January 1999


Psychology, Social|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This study combines two relatively separate areas of research, friendship in adolescence and adulthood and the role of attachment styles in children's friendships, and extrapolates a model for friendship development in a college population using attachment theory as a framework. In their close friendships, securely attached college students are thought to be: more intimate in self-disclosure; less hostile and anxious; and better able to confront one another directly, resolve conflicts fairly, and feel closer to one another as a result. Insecurely attached students are thought to continue engaging in a wider range of more superficial activities rather than allowing activities to become fewer and more intense. Moreover, they are thought to be less intimate in self-disclosure, more hostile and anxious, and less able to address conflicts directly or feel closer as a result of resolving those conflicts. Finally, social perception is posited as a mechanism for these differences. Compared to insecurely attached individuals, securely attached students are thought to perceive themselves more similarly to the way their friends perceive them and to be better predictors of their friends' perceptions. ^ The model was tested by asking 30 securely attached and 30 insecurely attached college students, 15 men and 15 women in each group, to select one close, same-gender friend. Participants and their friends were administered a packet of questionnaires in which they rated the frequency of several behaviors in their friendship and aspects of conflict resolution. They also rated themselves and one another on several personality attributes. Finally, they rated the way they believed their friends would rate them on those same attributes. ^ Results showed that, indeed, securely attached students were more intimate with their friends than insecurely attached students, particularly with regard to communication and affection. In addition, securely attached students approached potential conflicts more directly and felt closer to one another as a result of the conflict resolution process. Securely attached students also rated themselves and were rated by their friends as less hostile and anxious. Finally, securely attached students were more accurate social perceivers in that they viewed themselves more similarly to the way their friends viewed them. ^