Attachment and well-being: the mediating role of difficulties in emotion regulation and self-compassion

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University of New Brunswick


Individual differences in attachment security are known to have a considerable impact on both subjective and psychological well-being. The presence of a secure attachment relationship has repeatedly been linked to more positive well-being, whereas higher levels of insecure attachment (i.e., higher anxiety and/or avoidance) are related to poorer well-being outcomes (e.g., Diener & Diener-McGavran, 2008; La Guardia et al., 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2001; Shaver & Mikulincer, 2002). Although this relationship has been studied extensively, subjective and psychological well-being are rarely examined together. Following recent recommendations to assess well-being comprehensively (e.g., Chen et al., 2013; Samman, 2007), the present study simultaneously evaluated subjective and psychological well-being to gain a better understanding of the relative influence of attachment and the potential mediators of interest on each outcome. The primary focus of current study examined the potential mediating role of two constructs as well as difficulties in emotion regulation and self-compassion, as these factors have been minimally examined to date and previous investigations have yielded inconclusive or conflicting results. It was expected that individuals who reported greater attachment anxiety and/or avoidance would endorse greater difficulties in emotion regulation, the use of less adaptive emotion regulation strategies, and lower levels of self compassion; these, in turn, would contribute to poorer subjective and psychological well-being. To examine these hypotheses, 386 participants completed a series of online questionnaires measuring attachment, subjective and psychological well-being, emotion regulation strategies, difficulties in emotion regulation, and self-compassion. The findings for emotion regulation revealed six of the eight measures acted as significant mediators in the relationship between attachment and well-being. Furthermore, the results revealed self-compassion acted as a significant mediator in the relationship between attachment and all indices of well-being. The theoretical and clinical implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed. Keywords: attachment, subjective and psychological well-being, emotion regulation, self-compassion