The Attachment System in Fledgling Relationships: An Activating Role for Attachment Anxiety

Paul W. Eastwick*, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Is it sensible to study attachment dynamics between potential romantic partners before they share a full-fledged attachment bond? The present data indicate that such an approach may reveal novel insights about initial attraction processes. Four studies suggest that the state-like experience of attachment anxiety has functional implications within fledgling (i.e., desired or undeveloped) romantic relationships, well before the formation of an attachment bond. Studies 1 and 3 reveal that attachment anxiety directed toward a particular romantic interest is elevated before (in comparison with after) participants report being in an established relationship. Studies 2 and 3 demonstrate that such partner-specific attachment anxiety predicts attachment-relevant outcomes in fledgling relationships, including proximity seeking, safe haven, secure base, passionate love, and other approach behaviors. These associations were reliable above and beyond (and were typically as strong as or stronger than) the effect of sexual desire. Finally, Study 4 presents evidence that partner-specific attachment anxiety may cause several of these attachment-relevant outcomes. Attachment anxiety seems to be a normative experience and may signal the activation of the attachment system during the earliest stages of romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-647
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • anxiety
  • attachment
  • attraction
  • passionate love
  • speed-dating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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