Exploring Adult Attachment Styles: The ECR-S Scale

The Experience in Close Relationship Scale (ECR-S) is a self-report questionnaire that delves into the realm of adult attachment styles within close relationships. Inspired by Ainsworth’s work on infant attachment, this scale focuses on individuals in romantic relationships and measures maladaptive attachment. By capturing two vital factors of adult attachment, attachment avoidance, and attachment anxiety, the ECR-S provides insight into emotional responses within intimate connections.

Understanding Attachment Avoidance and Attachment Anxiety

Attachment avoidance refers to an individual’s fear of dependence and intimacy, an overwhelming need for self-reliance, and a reluctance to reveal one’s true self. On the other hand, attachment anxiety involves a fear of rejection or abandonment, an excessive need for approval from others, and distress when a partner is unavailable or unresponsive.

The ECR-S as a Therapeutic Tool

The ECR-S is instrumental in comprehending clients’ emotional responses in close relationships. With its ability to assess general adult attachment tendencies, this scale aids therapists in collaboratively formulating an understanding of relationship difficulties. Even if a respondent is not currently in a romantic relationship, the tool allows therapists to explore past experiences and evaluate the emotional impact.

Validity and Reliability

Brennan et al. (1998) found that the ECR long version exhibited high internal consistency within the two factors. Undergraduate students showed coefficient alphas of .91 and .94 for Anxiety and Avoidance subscales, respectively. Wei et al. (2007) confirmed the short version’s validity in their sample of 851 participants, with two factors demonstrating high internal consistency (coefficient alphas of .78 for Anxiety and .84 for Avoidance). The low correlation (r = .19) between the Anxiety and Avoidance subscales indicates that these dimensions reflect distinct aspects of attachment.

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The ECR-S demonstrates construct validity, aligning with attachment theory predictions. Attachment anxiety exhibited a positive association with emotional reactivity, while attachment avoidance had a positive association with emotional cutoff (Wei et al., 2007). Correlation analyses with various tests established convergent validity. Excessive reassurance seeking correlated significantly with attachment anxiety, while depression showed significant associations with both attachment anxiety and avoidance.

Scoring and Interpretation

The ECR-S yields scores for attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, each ranging from 7 to 42. Additionally, results are compared to a normative sample, represented as percentile ranks. A percentile of 50 indicates a typical and healthy attachment, while higher percentiles reflect greater challenges in adult attachment compared to peers.

Individuals scoring high in either or both dimensions are presumed to have an insecure adult attachment orientation. Conversely, those with low levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance are considered to have a secure adult attachment orientation (Brennan et al., 1998). Moreover, higher scores on the ECR-S are significantly and positively associated with depression, anxiety, interpersonal distress, and loneliness.

Developer

The ECR-S was developed by Wei, M., Russell, D. W., Mallinckrodt, B., & Vogel, D. L. in 2007. Their work on the reliability, validity, and factor structure of the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale (ECR)-Short Form was published in the Journal of Personality Assessment (88, 187-204).

References

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.

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