Roots of adult attachment: Maternal caregiving at 18 months predicts adult peer and partner attachment

Vivian Zayas, Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, J. Lawrence Aber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is widely assumed that, within the context of a stable developmental environment, relationship experiences in early life influence later ones. To date, however, there has been no longitudinal empirical evidence for the hypothesis that early maternal caregiving predicts adult attachment dynamics with peers and partners. The present longitudinal study shows that quality of maternal caregiving experienced at 18 months of age predicted the extent to which the same participants more than 20 years later (age M = 22) were uncomfortable relying on partners and peers (avoidance) and experienced relational worries with partners (anxiety). These findings provide new empirical support that early maternal caregiving predicts later adult attachment patterns with peers and partners. Moreover, consistent with attachment theory, they suggest that the influence of maternal caregiving experienced in early life is not limited to this first attachment relationship but operates more generally in other attachment relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-297
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Adult attachment
  • Continuity
  • Development
  • Individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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