Broken Attachments: Relationship Loss From the Perspective of Attachment Theory

  • Cindy Hazan
  • Phillip R. Shaver


Loss is an integral part of close relationships. Death, estrangement, and geographical distance often separate us from those with whom we are close. Relationships are continually being constituted and dissolved. If we are truly to understand close relationships, we must not limit ourselves to studying them only during their constitutive phase but also throughout their natural cycle. As there is much to learn from studying attraction and relationship formation (e.g., Berscheid & Peplau, 1983; Berscheid & Walster, 1978), so there is much to learn from studying relationship dissolution (e.g., Duck, 1982; Hill, Rubin, & Peplau, 1976; Levinger, 1976; Weiss, 1975). As Lewin observed, it is when an entity is moving and changing that its dynamics reveal themselves most clearly (cited in Deutsch, 1954). And as Bowlby (1979) suggests in the title of one of his books, to understand human relationships we must examine both “the making and [the] breaking of affectional bonds.”


Basic Book Attachment Theory Care Giver Insecure Attachment Attachment Relationship 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aberbach, D. (1989). Surviving trauma: Loss, literature, and psychoanalysis. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ainsworth, M. D. (1967). Infancy in Uganda: Infant care and the growth of love. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: Assessed in the strange situation and at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  4. Aron, A., Dutton, D. G., Aron, E. R., & Iverson, A. (1989). Experiences of falling in love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, 243–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berscheid, E., & Peplau, L. A. (1983). The emerging science of relationships. In H. H. Kelley, E. Berscheid, A. Christensen, J. H. Harvey, T. L. Huston, G. Levinger, E. McClintock, L. A. Peplau, & D. R. Peterson (Eds.), Close relationships (pp. 1–19). New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  6. Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1978). Interpersonal attraction. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  7. Bloom, B., Asher, S. J., & White, S. W. (1978). Marital disruption as a stressor: A review and analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 867–894.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowlby, J. (1953). Some pathological processes set in train by early mother-child separation. Journal of Mental Science, 99, 265–272.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350–373.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  12. Bowlby, J. (1977). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. British Journal of Psychiatry, 130, 201–210, 421-431.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bowlby, J. (1979). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  14. Bowlby, J. (1980), Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  15. Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  16. Bretherton, I. (1987). New perspective on attachment relations: Security, Communication, and internal working models. In J. Osofsky (Ed.), Handbook on infant development. (2nd ed.) (pp. 1061–1100). New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  17. Bretherton, I., & Waters, E. (Eds.). (1985). Growing points of attachment theory and research. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1–2), v–xi.Google Scholar
  18. Burgess, R. L. (1981). Relationships in marriage and the family. In S. Duck & R. Gilmour (Eds.), Personal relationships 1. Studying personal relationships (pp. 179–196). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Campbell, A. (1981). The sense of well being in America: Patterns and trends. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  20. Deutsch, M. (1954). Field theory in social psychology. In G. Lindzey (Ed.), Handbook of social psychology. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  21. Duck, S. (Ed.) (1982). Personal relationships 4: Dissolving personal relationships. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Erickson, M. F., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (1985). The relationship between quality of attachment and behavior problems in preschool in a high-risk sample. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1–2), 147–166.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fisher, H. E. (1987). The four-year itch: Do divorce patterns reflect our evolutionary heritage? Natural History, 10, 22–25.Google Scholar
  24. Freud, A., & Burlingham, D. (1943). War and children. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  25. Freud, S. (1917/1919). Mourning and melancholia. In J. Strachey (1955) (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 18, pp. 67–143). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1917)Google Scholar
  26. Glick, I., Weiss, R. S., & Parkes, C. M. (1974). The first year of bereavement. New York: Wiley-Interscience.Google Scholar
  27. Goodwin, J. S., Hurt, W. C., Key, C. R., & Sarret, J. M. (1987). The effect of marital status on stage, treatment and survival of cancer patients. Journal of the American Medical Association, 258, 3125–3130.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gorer, G. (1973). Death, grief and mourning in Britain. In E. J. Anthony & C. Koupernik (Eds.). The child in his family: The impact of disease and death, New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  29. Hardy, T. (1912-1913). The going. In J. Gibson (Ed.), The complete poems of Thomas Hardy. (1976) London, England: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  30. Harvey, J. H., Orbuch, T. L., & Weber, A. L. (1990). A social psychological model of account-making in response to severe stress. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 9, 191–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hazan, C., & Hutt, M. J. (1989, October). Continuity and change in inner working models of attachment. Paper presented at the meeting of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, Santa Monica, CA.Google Scholar
  32. Hazan, C., & Hutt, M. J. (1990). From parent to peer: Transition in attachment. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  33. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511–524.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1990). Love and work: An attachment-theoretical perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 270–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Heinicke, C. M. (1956). Some effects of separating two-year-old children from their parents: A comparative study. Human Relations, 9, 105–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Heinicke, C. M., & Westheimer, I. (1966). Brief separations. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  37. Hill, C. T., Rubin, Z., & Peplau, L. A. (1976). Breakups before marriage: The end of 103 affairs. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 147–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Garner, W., Speicher, C., Penn, G. M., Holliday, J., & Glaser, R. (1984, January-February). Psychological modifiers of immunocompetence in medical students. Psychosomatic Medicine, 46, 7–14.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Ricker, D., George, J., Messick, G., Speicher, G. E., Garner, W., & Glaser, R. (1984, January-February). Urinary Cortisol levels, cellular immunocompetence, and loneliness in psychiatric inpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 46, 15–23.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Kobak, R. R., & Hazan, C. (1990). Working models in marital relationships: The role of attachment in communication and relationship satisfaction. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  41. Kobak, R. R., & Sceery, A. (1988). The transition to college: Working models of attachment, affect regulation, and perceptions of self and others. Child Development, 88, 135–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Levinger, G. (1976). A social psychological perspective on marital dissolution. Journal of Social Issues, 32, 21–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lindemann, E. (1944). Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American Journal of Psychiatry, 101, 141–149.Google Scholar
  44. Lynch, J. J. (1977). The broken heart: The medical consequences of loneliness. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  45. Main, M., & Cassidy, J. (1988). Categories of response to reunion with the parent at age 6: Predictable from infant attachment classifications and stable over a 1-month period. Developmental Psychology, 24, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Main, M., & Goldwyn, R. (1984). Predicting rejection of her infant from mother’s representation of her own experience: Implications for the abused-abusing intergenerational cycle. Child Abuse and Neglect, 8, 203–217.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Main, M., Kaplan, N., & Cassidy, J. (1985). Security in infancy, childhood, and adulthood: A move to the level of representation. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1-2), 66–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Main, M., & Stadtman, J. (1981). Infant response to rejection of physical contact by the mother: Aggression, avoidance, and conflict. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 20, 292–307.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Main, M., & Weston, D. (1981). The quality of the toddler’s relationship to mother and father: Related to conflict behavior and the readiness to establish new relationships. Child Development, 52, 932–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Marris, P. (1958). Widows and their families. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  51. Miller, G. A., Galanter, E., & Pribram, K. H. (1960). Plans and the structure of behavior. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Miller, S. I., & Schoenfeld, L. (1973). Grief in the Navajo: Psychodynamics and culture. International Journal of Psychiatry, 19, 187–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Norton, A. J., & Glick, P. C. (1979). Marital instability in America: Past, present, and future. In G. Levinger & O. C. Moles (Eds.), Divorce and separation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  54. Palgi, P. (1973). The socio-cultural expressions and implications of death, mourning and bereavement arising out of the war situation in Israel. Israel Annals of Psychiatry, 11, 301–329.Google Scholar
  55. Parkes, C. M. (1972). Bereavement. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  56. Parkes, C. M., & Weiss, R. S. (1983). Recovery from bereavement. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  57. Reedy, M. N., Birren, J. E., & Schaie, K. W. (1981). Age and sex differences in satisfying love relationships across the adult life span. Human Development, 24, 52–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ricks, M. H. (1985). The social transmission of parental behavior: Attachment across generations. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1–2), 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Robertson, J. (1953). Some responses of young children to loss of maternal care. Nursing Times, 49, 382–386.Google Scholar
  60. Robson, K. S. (1967). The role of eye-to-eye contact in maternal-infant attachment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 13–25.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rosaldo, R. (1989). Culture and truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  62. Rubenstein, C., & Shaver, P. (1982). In search of intimacy. New York: Delacorte.Google Scholar
  63. Rubin, Z. (1973). Liking and loving. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  64. Rubin, Z. (1974). Lovers and other strangers: The development of intimacy in encounters and relationships. American Scientist, 62, 182–190.Google Scholar
  65. Shaver, P. R., & Hazan, C. (1988). A biased overview of the study of love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 5, 473–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shaver, P. R., Hazan, C., & Bradshaw, D. (1988). Love as attachment: The integration of three behavioral systems. In R. J. Sternberg & M. L. Barnes (Eds.), The psychology of love (pp. 68–99). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Shaver, P. R., & Rubenstein, C. (1980). Childhood attachment experience and adult loneliness. In L. Wheeler (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 42–73). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  68. Simpson, J. (1990). The influence of attachment styles on romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 971–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Spitz, R. A. (1953). Aggression: Its role in the establishment of object relations. In R. M. Loewenstein (Ed.), Drives, affects and behaviour. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  70. Sroufe, L. A. (1983). Infant-caregiver attachment and patterns of adaptation in preschool: The roots of maladaptation and competence. In M. Perlmutter (Ed.), Minnesota symposium on child psychology (Vol. 16, pp. 41–83). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  71. Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tennov, D. (1979). Love and limerence: The experience of being in love. New York: Stein & Day.Google Scholar
  73. Vaughan, D. (1986). Uncoupling: How relationships come apart. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Waters, E., & Deane, K. E. (1985). Defining and assessing individual differences in attachment relationships: Q-methodology and the organization of behavior in infancy and early childhood.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1-2), 41–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Waters, E., Wippman, J., & Sroufe, A. (1979). Attachment, positive affect, and competence in the peer group: Two studies in construct validation. Child Development, 50, 821–829.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Weiss, R. S. (1973). Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  77. Weiss, R. S. (1975). Marital separation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  78. Weiss, R. S. (1982). Attachment in adults. In C. M. Parkes & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 171–184). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  79. Weiss, R. S. (1988). Loss and recovery. Journal of Social Issues, 44, 37–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Young, J. Z. (1964). A model of the brain. London, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cindy Hazan
  • Phillip R. Shaver

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations