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Enhancing the “Broaden and Build” Cycle of Attachment Security in Adulthood: From the Laboratory to Relational Contexts and Societal Systems


Attachment theory emphasizes both the importance of the availability of caring, supportive relationship partners, beginning in infancy, for developing a sense of safety and security, and the beneficial effects of this sense of security on psychosocial functioning and physical and mental health. In this article, we briefly review basic concepts of attachment theory, focusing on the core construct of attachment security and present evidence concerning the ways in which this sense can be enhanced in adulthood. Specifically, we review findings from laboratory experiments that have momentarily enhanced the sense of attachment security and examined its effects on emotion regulation, psychological functioning, and prosocial behavior. We then review empirical findings and ideas concerning security enhancement by actual relationship partners, non-human symbolic figures, and societal systems in a wide variety of life domains, such as marital relationships, psychotherapy, education, health and medicine, leadership and management, group interactions, religion, law, and government.

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