Self-Report Measures of Adult Attachment: An Integrative Overview

Kelly A. Brennan, Catherine L. Clark, and Phillip R. Shaver


Brennan, K. A., Clark, C. L., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). Self-report measurement of adult romantic attachment: An integrative overview. In J. A. Simpson & W. S. Rholes (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 46-76). New York: Guilford Press.

Contact Information

For a preprint, please contact Kelly Brennan-Jones, Department of Psychology 350 New Campus Drive Brockport, NY 14420. E-mail:


Ever since Hazan and Shaver (1987) showed that it is possible to use a self-report questionnaire to measure adolescent and adult romantic-attachment orientations (secure, anxious, and avoidant--the three patterns identified by Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall, 1978, in their studies of infant-caregiver attachment), a steady stream of variants and extensions of their questionnaire have been proposed. The resulting diversity often arouses frustration and confusion in newcomers to the field who wonder which of the many measures to use. The three of us are probably typical of attachment researchers in receiving as many as five telephone calls, letters, and e-mail messages a week from researchers who want to know either "Has anything happened since 1987?" or "Which measure is the best?"

In the present chapter we attempt to solve this problem by creating an all-purpose reply to future attachment researchers who wish to use self-report measures. . . We will report some of the results of a large-sample study that incorporated most of the extant self-report attachment measures, including some that are rarely referenced by attachment researchers. We began with a thorough search of the literature, including available conference papers, from which we created a pool of 482 items designed to assess 60 named attachment-related constructs. The three of us then independently evaluated the degree of redundancy among similar items, reducing them to a single exemplary item if two or three of us agreed that they were completely or almost completely redundant. (As will be seen, this still left a substantial amount of inter-item similarity.) We thus reduced the 482 items to 323, from which all 60 subscale scores could be computed. We then factor-analyzed the 60 subscale scores, producing two essentially independent factors that correspond to the already-familiar Avoidance and Anxiety dimensions. When we clustered subjects into four groups based on their scores on the two factors, the groups corresponded conceptually to Bartholomew's four types (see our Figure 3). But the relations between the clusters and other theoretically appropriate target variables proved to be stronger than the corresponding relations between Bartholomew's self-report measure and those same target variables. We also computed two internally consistent but relatively brief scales to represent the Avoidance and Anxiety factors and used those scales to predict theoretically appropriate target variables. The results were promising and suggest that self-report attachment research might benefit from the use of the two scales.

Items and Psychometric Information for the ECR (from the chapter)

Attachment Scales and Scoring Instructions Two Higher-Order Attachment Dimensions (Avoidance and Anxiety)

Avoidance (alpha = .94)

Item #; Item-Total Correlation; Item; (R) = reverse keyed

  • 1. .73 I prefer not to show a partner how I feel deep down.
  • 3. .71 I am very comfortable being close to romantic partners. (R)
  • 5. .70 Just when my partner starts to get close to me I find myself pulling away.
  • 7. .70 I get uncomfortable when a romantic partner wants to be very close.
  • 9. .69 I donít feel comfortable opening up to romantic partners.
  • 11. .68 I want to get close to my partner, but I keep pulling back.
  • 13. .68 I am nervous when partners get too close to me.
  • 15. .68 I feel comfortable sharing my private thoughts and feelings with my partner. (R)
  • 17. .68 I try to avoid getting too close to my partner.
  • 19. .67 I find it relatively easy to get close to my partner. (R)
  • 21. .67 I find it difficult to allow myself to depend on romantic partners.
  • 23. .65 I prefer not to be too close to romantic partners.
  • 25. .64 I tell my partner just about everything. (R)
  • 27. .64 I usually discuss my problems and concerns with my partner. (R)
  • 29. .64 I feel comfortable depending on romantic partners. (R)
  • 31. .63 I donít mind asking romantic partners for comfort, advice, or help. (R)
  • 33. .62 It helps to turn to my romantic partner in times of need. (R)
  • 35. .60 I turn to my partner for many things, including comfort and reassurance. (R)

    Anxiety (alpha = .91)

    Item #; Item-Total Correlation; Item; (R) = reverse keyed

  • 2. .67 I worry about being abandoned.
  • 4. .65 I worry a lot about my relationships.
  • 6. .65 I worry that romantic partners wonít care about me as much as I care about them.
  • 8. .63 I worry a fair amount about losing my partner.
  • 10. .62 I often wish that my partner's feelings for me were as strong as my feelings for him/her.
  • 12. .60 I often want to merge completely with romantic partners, and this sometimes scares them away.
  • 14. .60 I worry about being alone.
  • 16. .57 My desire to be very close sometimes scares people away.
  • 18. .56 I need a lot of reassurance that I am loved by my partner.
  • 20. .55 Sometimes I feel that I force my partners to show more feeling, more commitment.
  • 22. .54 I do not often worry about being abandoned. (R)
  • 24. .52 If I can't get my partner to show interest in me, I get upset or angry.
  • 26. .52 I find that my partner(s) donít want to get as close as I would like.
  • 28. .51 When I'm not involved in a relationship, I feel somewhat anxious and insecure.
  • 30. .51 I get frustrated when my partner is not around as much as I would like.
  • 32. .51 I get frustrated if romantic partners are not available when I need them.
  • 34. .50 When romantic partners disapprove of me, I feel really bad about myself.
  • 36. .50 I resent it when my partner spends time away from me.

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