Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 172–183 | Cite as

Adult Attachment and Well-Being: Dimensions of Differentiation of Self as Mediators

  • Rebecca L. Hainlen
  • Peter J. Jankowski
  • David R. Paine
  • Steven J. Sandage
Original Paper


This study investigated adult attachment dimensions as predictors of interpersonal forgiveness, positive emotionality, and social justice commitment through dimensions of differentiation of self. The sample consisted of 209 master’s level graduate students at a Protestant-affiliated university in the United States. Results revealed that higher attachment anxiety was associated with decreased differentiation of self and that decreased differentiation of self was then associated with lower levels of interpersonal forgiveness, positive emotionality and social justice commitment. Increased attachment avoidance was similarly associated with decreased differentiation of self, which then corresponded to lower levels of interpersonal forgiveness, positive emotionality and social justice commitment. Findings are discussed in the context of existing theory and research, and attention is given to the implications for clinical training and practice and future research.


Forgiveness Attachment Differentiation of self Well-being Social justice commitment 



We would like to acknowledge Drs. John O’Regan and Raja David of the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Twin Cities, for their invaluable contribution of expertise and guidance in the conceptualization and implementation of this research.


This project was supported by a grant from the Fetzer Institute (#2266).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Arbuckle, J. L. (2006). Amos 7 .0 user’s guide. Chicago: SPSS, Inc.Google Scholar
  2. Barry, R. A., Lakey, B., & Orehek, E. (2007). Links among attachment dimensions, affect, the self, and perceived support for broadly generalized attachment styles and specific bonds. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 340–353. doi: 10.1177/0146167206296102.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bell, D. C. (2009). Attachment without fear. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 1, 177–197.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Benson, P. L., Donahue, M. J., & Erickson, J. A. (1993). The faith maturity scale: Conceptualization, measurement, and empirical validation. In M. L. Lynn & D. O. Moberg (Eds.), Research in the social scientific study of religion (Vol. 5, pp. 1–26). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  5. Blackmore, J. (2013). Social justice in education: A theoretical overview. In B. J. Irby, G. Brown, R. Lara-Alecio, S. Jackson, B. J. Irby, G. Brown, et al. (Eds.), The handbook of educational theories (pp. 1001–1009). Charlotte, NC: IAP Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  6. Bowen, M. (1978). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Aronson.Google Scholar
  7. Brennan, K. A., Clark, C. L., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). Self-report measurement of adult attachment: An integrative overview. In J. A. Simpson & W. S. Rholes (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 46–76). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brennan, K. A., & Shaver, P. R. (1995). Dimensions of adult attachment, affect regulation, and romantic relationship functioning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 267–283. doi: 10.1177/0146167295213008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burnette, J. L., Davis, D. E., Green, J. D., Worthington, E. L, Jr, & Bradfield, E. (2009). Insecure attachment and depressive symptoms: The mediating role of rumination, empathy, and forgiveness. Personality and Individual Difference, 46, 276–280. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2008.10.016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burnette, J. L., Taylor, K. W., Worthington, E. L., & Forsyth, D. R. (2007). Attachment and trait forgiveness: The mediating role of angry rumination. Personality and Individual Differences, 42, 1585–1596. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2006.10.033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Byrne, B. (2010). Structural equation modeling with AMOS (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Cohrs, J. C., Christie, D. J., White, M. P., & Das, C. (2013). Contributions of positive psychology to peace: Toward global well-being and resilience. American Psychologist, 68, 590–600.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Erez, A., Mikulincer, M., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Kroonenberg, P. M. (2008). Attachment, personality, and volunteering: Placing volunteerism in an attachment-theoretical framework. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 64–74. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.07.021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Garcia, M., Košutić, I., & McDowell, T. (2015). Peace on earth/war at home: The role of emotion regulation in social justice work. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy: An International Forum, 27, 1–20. doi: 10.1080/08952833.2015.1005945.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gillath, O., Shaver, P. R., Mikulincer, M., Nitzberg, R. E., Erez, A., & Ijzendoorn, M. H. (2005). Attachment, caregiving, and volunteering: Placing volunteerism in an attachment theoretical framework. Personal Relationships, 12, 425–446. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2005.00124.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Granqvist, P., & Hagekull, B. (2000). Religiosity, adult attachment, and why “singles” are more religious. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 111–123. doi: 10.1207/S15327582IJPR1002_04.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Henriques, G., Kleinman, K., & Asselin, C. (2014). The nested model of well-being: A unified approach. Review of General Psychology, 18, 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hill, E. W. (2001). Understanding forgiveness as discovery: Implications for marital and family therapy. Contemporary Family Therapy, 23, 369–384. doi: 10.1023/A:1013075627064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holeman, V. T., Dean, J. B., DeShea, L., & Duba, J. D. (2011). The multidimensional nature of the quest construct forgiveness, spiritual perception, and differentiation of self. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 39, 31–43.Google Scholar
  20. Jankowski, P. J., & Hooper, L. M. (2012). Differentiation of self: A validation study of the Bowen theory construct. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 1, 226–243. doi: 10.1037/a0027469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jankowski, P. J., & Sandage, S. J. (2011). Meditative prayer, hope, adult attachment, and forgiveness: A proposed model. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 3, 115–131. doi: 10.1037/a0021601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jankowski, P. J., & Sandage, S. J. (2012). Spiritual dwelling and well-being: The mediating role of differentiation of self in a sample of distressed adults. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, 15, 417–434. doi: 10.1080/13674676.2011.579592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jankowski, P. J., & Sandage, S. J. (2014). Attachment to god and dispositional humility: Indirect effect and conditional effects models. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 42, 70–82.Google Scholar
  24. Jankowski, P. J., Sandage, S. J., & Hill, P. C. (2013). Differentiation-based models of forgivingness, mental health and social justice commitment: Mediator effects for differentiation of self and humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 412–424. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2013.820337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, S. M. (2004). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy: Creating connection (2nd ed.). New York: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Jordan, J. V. (2010). Relational-cultural therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  27. Joshanloo, M. (2014). Eastern conceptualizations of happiness: Fundamental differences in Eastern and Western views. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 475–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  29. Košutić, I., & McDowell, T. (2008). Diversity and social justice issues in family therapy literature: A decade review. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy: An International Forum, 20, 142–165. doi: 10.1080/08952830802023292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krycak, R. C., Murdock, N. L., & Marszalek, J. M. (2012). Differentiation of self, stress, and emotional support as predictors of psychological distress. Contemporary Family Therapy, 34, 495–515. doi: 10.1007/s10591-012-9207-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lawler-Row, K. A., Younger, J. W., Piferi, R. L., & Jones, W. H. (2006). The role of adult attachment style in forgiveness following an interpersonal offense. Journal of Counseling and Development, 84, 493–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lin, W. N., Enright, R. D., & Klatt, J. S. (2013). A forgiveness intervention for Taiwanese young adults with insecure attachment. Contemporary Family Therapy, 35, 105–120. doi: 10.1007/s10591-012-9218-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lucas, T., Zhdanova, L., Wendorf, C. A., & Alexander, S. (2013). Procedural and distributive justice beliefs for self and others: Multilevel associations with life satisfaction and self-rated health. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1325–1341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. MacKinnon, D. P., Lockwood, C. M., & Williams, J. (2004). Confidence limits for the indirect effect: Distribution of the product and resampling methods. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 39, 99–128. doi: 10.1207/s15327906mbr3901_4.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112–127. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.82.1.112.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. McCullough, M. E., Worthington, E. L., & Rachal, K. C. (1997). Interpersonal forgiving in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 321–336. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.73.2.321.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. McDowell, T., & Shelton, D. (2002). Valuing ideas of social justice in MFT curricula. Contemporary Family Therapy, 24, 313–331. doi: 10.1023/A:1015351408957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Merz, E. L., & Roesch, S. C. (2010). Modeling trait and state variation using multilevel factor analysis with PANAS daily diary data. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 2–9. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2010.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mikulincer, M., Gillath, O., Halevy, V., Avihou, N., Avidan, S., & Eshkoli, Nitzan. (2001). Attachment theory and reactions to others’ needs: Evidence that activation of the sense of attachment security promotes empathic responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1205–1224. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.81.6.1205.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  41. Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., Gillath, O., & Nitzberg, R. A. (2005). Attachment, caregiving, and altruism: Boosting attachment security increases compassion and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 817–839. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.817.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Murphy, M., Park, J., & Lonsdale, N. (2006). Marriage and family therapy students’ change in multicultural counseling competencies after a diversity course. Contemporary Family Therapy, 28, 303–311. doi: 10.1007/s10591-006-9009-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pereira, M. G., Taysi, E., Orcan, F., & Fincham, F. (2014). Attachment, infidelity, and loneliness in college students involved in a romantic relationship: The role of relationship satisfaction, morbidity, and prayer for partner. Contemporary Family Therapy, 36, 333–350. doi: 10.1007/s10591-013-9289-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Preacher, K. J., & Selig, J. P. (2012). Advantages of Monte Carlo confidence intervals for indirect effects. Communications Methods and Measures, 6, 77–98. doi: 10.1080/19312458.2012.679848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Prilleltensky, I. (2012). Wellness as fairness. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49, 1–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Ross, A. S., & Murdock, N. L. (2014). Differentiation of self and well-being: The moderating effect of self-construal. Contemporary Family Therapy, 36, 485–496. doi: 10.1007/s10591-9311-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sandage, S. J., & Crabtree, S. (2011). Spiritual pathology and religious coping as predictors of forgiveness. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 1, 1–19. doi: 10.1080/13674676.2011.613806.Google Scholar
  49. Sandage, S. J., Crabtree, S., & Schweer, M. (2014). Differentiation of self and social justice commitment mediated by hope. Journal of Counseling and Development, 92, 67–74. doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00131.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sandage, S. J., & Jankowski, P. J. (2010). Forgiveness, spiritual instability, mental health symptoms, and well-being: Mediator effects of differentiation of self. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2, 168–180. doi: 10.1037/a0019124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sandage, S. J., & Jankowski, P. J. (2013). Spirituality, social justice, and intercultural competence: Mediator effects for differentiation of self. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37, 366–374. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.11.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sandage, S. J., & Williamson, I. (2010). Relational spirituality and dispositional forgiveness: A structural equations model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38, 255–266.Google Scholar
  53. Schnarch, D. (2009). Intimacy and desire: Awaken the passion in your relationship. New York: Beaufort Books.Google Scholar
  54. Selig, J. P., & Preacher, K. J. (2008). Monte Carlo method for assessing mediation: An interactive tool for creating confidence intervals for indirect effects [Computer software].
  55. Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & John, O. P. (2006). Positive emotion dispositions differentially associated with big five personality and attachment style. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 61–71. doi: 10.1080/17439760500510833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Skowron, E. A. (2000). The role of differentiation of self in marital adjustment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 229–237. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.47.2.229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Skowron, E. A., & Dendy, A. K. (2004). Differentiation of self and attachment in adulthood: Relational correlates of effortful control. Contemporary Family Therapy, 26, 337–357. doi: 10.1023/B:COFT.0000037919.63750.9d.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Skowron, E. A., Holmes, S. E., & Sabatelli, R. M. (2003). Deconstructing differentiation: Self-regulation, interdependent relating, and well-being in adulthood. Contemporary Family Therapy, 25, 111–129. doi: 10.1023/A:1022514306491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Skowron, E. A., & Schmitt, T. A. (2003). Assessing interpersonal fusion: Reliability and validity of a new DSI fusion with others subscale. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 29, 209–222. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2003.tb01201.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Skowron, E. A., Stanley, K. L., & Shapiro, M. D. (2009). A longitudinal perspective on differentiation of self, interpersonal and psychological well-being in young adulthood. Contemporary Family Therapy, 31, 3–18. doi: 10.1007/s10591-008-9075-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tasca, G. A., Szadkowski, L., Illing, V., Trinneer, A., Grenon, R., Demidenko, N., & Bissada, H. (2009). Adult attachment, depression, and eating disorder symptoms: The mediating role of affect regulation strategies. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 662–667. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.06.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Thorberg, F. A., & Lyvers, M. (2006). Attachment, fear of intimacy and differentiation of self among clients in substance disorder treatment facilities. Addictive Behaviors, 31(4), 732–737. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2005.05.050.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Timm, T., & Keiley, M. K. (2011). The effects of differentiation of self, adult attachment, and sexual communication on sexual and marital satisfaction: A path analysis. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 37, 206–223. doi: 10.1080/0092623X.2011.564513.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Wang, P. S., Berglund, P. A., & Kessler, R. C. (2003). Patterns and correlates of contacting clergy for mental disorders in the United States. Human Services Research, 38, 647–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Wei, M., Vogel, D. L., Ku, T. Y., & Zakalik, R. A. (2005). Adult attachment, affect regulation, negative mood, and interpersonal problems: The mediating roles of emotional reactivity and emotional cutoff. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 14–24. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.52.1.14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Williamson, I., Sandage, S. J., & Lee, R. M. (2007). How social connectedness affects guilt and shame: Mediated by hope and differentiation of self. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 2159–2170. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.06.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52, 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wood, N. D., Werner-Wilson, R. J., Parker, T. S., & Perry, M. S. (2012). Exploring the impact of attachment anxiety and avoidance on the perception of couple conflict. Contemporary Family Therapy, 34, 416–428. doi: 10.1007/s10591-012-9202-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hazelden Betty Ford FoundationCenter CityUSA
  2. 2.Bethel UniversitySt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations