Major Movements in Psychology

Attachment Theory

What is the adult attachment interview?

In order to study attachment in adults, Mary Main and colleagues developed a semi-structured interview called the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). A semi-structured interview provides specific questions as well as open-ended, follow-up questions. There is a script to follow but the interviewer can deviate from it to clarify information. The interview takes about an hour and a half and asks questions about the subject’s childhood relationship with his or her parents. The way the subject talks about childhood attachment is more important than what they say about their parents. Of most importance is the coherence of their narrative, specifically between their abstract generalizations about their childhood attachment relationships (e.g., “My mother was loving, involved.”) and the specific memories generated to illustrate these generalizations (e.g., “I remember making chocolate chip cookies with her in our kitchen.”). The narrative is coherent if the story makes sense; if it is riddled with contradictions, it is not coherent.


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