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Department of Psychological Sciences

Nebi Sumer, Ph.D.

TITLE: Professor of Psychology, Department Head

COMPANY: Middle East Technical University


Dr. Catherine Cozzarelli

Dissertation Title

The impact of mental models of attachment on partner and self-attributions and relationship satisfaction

Dissertation Abstract

Attachment theory asserts that the quality of early interactions with caregivers results in internal representations (or mental models) that guide expectations and evaluations about the self and others, and underlie attachment styles. The purpose of this study was to detail the relationship between adult attachment styles (and the mental models underlying them) and the attributions individuals make for their own (self-attributions) and their romantic partners' (partner-attributions) negative behaviors. Within this context, first, it was assumed that individuals with different attachment styles would make partner and self-attributions that are consistent with the positivity of their mental models of attachment. Specifically, those with a negative model of others were expected to make more negative attributions in response to negative partner behaviors than those with a positive model of others, and those with a negative model of self were expected to make more negative self-attributions in response to their own negative behaviors than those with a positive model of self. Second, a proposed model relating mental models to attributions and relationship satisfaction was tested via structural equation modeling with latent variables. It was predicted that mental models of the self and others would have both a direct effect and an indirect effect, via attributions, on relationship satisfaction.

Participants (n = 352) who were currently involved in a romantic relationship completed multiple measures of attachment styles, partner and self-attributions, and relationship satisfaction. Results of the analyses based on categorical attachment styles revealed a secure versus insecure split on both partner and self-attributions, rather than a clustering on the basis of the positivity/negativity of mental models. That is, people with an insecure attachment style (preoccupieds, fearfuls, and dismissings) reported more negative attributions than people with a secure attachment style. In addition, results of the structural model analyses indicated that model of self (but not model of others) had a direct and an indirect effect, mediated by attributions, on relationship satisfaction. Model of others had only a direct effect on relationship satisfaction. These findings suggest that the negative expectations and beliefs that insecure people have in common may generate high levels of maladaptive attributions for relationship events, and that a positive model of self is a valuable personal resource that enhances adaptive attributions, and hence, leads to high levels of relationship satisfaction.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1996

E-mail: nsumer@metu.edu.tr

Phone: 90-312-210-5111