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Project title: Attachment style and relation to health and coping in adults

Primary supervisor: Dr Jilly Martin

Co-supervisor/s: Dr Abi Millings

Project description: Different attachment styles are known to be associated with differences in cognition, affect, and behaviour with regard to close relationships in adults. These individual differences are also known to affect how people deal with threatening situations. People with insecure attachment styles tend to have poorer coping abilities. In relation to health and illness, research has found links between attachment styles and the way in which people cope with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS (Gore-Felton, 2013), diabetes (Ciechanowski et al., 2001; 2004), arthritis (Sirois & Gick, 2014), and irritable bowel disease (Gick & Sirois, 2010). Research has also found that attachment styles can affect adherence to treatment (Bennet, Fuertes, Keitel & Philips, 2011; Ciechanowski et al., 2004).
While attachment styles are relatively resistant to change in the longer term, experimental research has shown that positive short term effects can be achieved on various outcome measures by priming attachment security. For example, priming attachment security can increase positive relationship expectations (Rowe & Carnelley, 2003), increase pain tolerance (Rowe et al., 2012) reduce attachment anxiety (Carnelley & Rowe, 2007), and reduce anxious and depressed mood (Carnelley et al., 2015). In this project, we would like to explore whether priming attachment security could improve coping with a chronic illness.

Key references:
Carnelley, Ottway, Rowe (2015) The Effects of Attachment Priming on Depressed and Anxious Mood. Clinical Psychological Science, doi: 10.1177/2167702615594998

Ciechanowski PS, Katon WJ, Russo JE, Walker EA. (2001) The patient-provider relationship: attachment theory and adherence to treatment in diabetes. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158, 29-35

Formal enquiries should be addressed to: Dr Jilly Martin (jilly.martin@sheffield.ac.uk) or Dr Abi Millings (a.millings@sheffield.ac.uk)

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