Social assistance or agency? Attachment Styles Moderate the Impact of Control Threat on Social Relationship Preferences

Polish Psychological Bulletin:309-317 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Building upon Gasiorowska and Zaleskiewicz's (2021, 2023), we explored how a control threat and attachment style influence social relationship preferences. This experiment aimed to investigate how experiencing a control threat affects individuals with secure, anxious, and avoidant attachment patterns when they can choose between seeking assistance from the market, asking a close person for help, or coping with the situation alone. Participants with different attachment styles were randomly assigned to either the lack of control condition ( n = 290) or the having control condition ( n = 277). Individuals with an anxious attachment were more inclined to choose the market-exchange option and less likely to select the agentic and communal options when faced with a control threat. Meanwhile, those with an avoidant attachment exhibited a higher tendency to choose the agentic option, while their preference for noncontingent help decreased after exposure to the control threat. Surprisingly, secure attachment individuals showed an increased preference for noncontingent help and decreased preferences for market exchange and self-reliance when exposed to the control threat compared to when they had control. These findings suggest that participation in market relationships may meet vital psychological needs and serve as a safeguard against attachment insecurities.

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