Adult attachment, anger regulation and aggression: individual differences in the experience and expression of anger
Brodie, Z. (2016) Adult attachment, anger regulation and aggression: individual differences in the experience and expression of anger, no. 369.
Attachment theory has increasingly been applied to the understanding of individual differences in emotion regulation, however application of the attachment framework to anger is underspecified. The present thesis describes three studies reporting relationships between attachment insecurity and anger expression, taking into account attachment-related differences in anger regulation. Using multiple regression analyses, the results of Study 1a indicated that attachment anxiety was a significant independent predictor of trait anger, while attachment avoidance and self-esteem were not. Study 1b extended these findings by examining whether the use of specific anger regulation strategies mediated the relationship between attachment insecurity and dispositional aggression (physical aggression, verbal aggression and hostility). Attachment anxiety was indirectly related to physical aggression and hostility, through the use of maladaptive regulation techniques and a lack of anger control; while attachment avoidance had an indirect relationship with hostility through anger suppression. Study 2 utilised an anger induction procedure to investigate the relationship between attachment insecurity, self-reported and physiological responses, and subsequent aggressive behaviour. Neither attachment dimension was significantly associated with physiological reactivity to the anger induction, however attachment avoidance was negatively associated with changes in self-reported anger. Attachment avoidance was once again a significant predictor of anger suppression, while attachment anxiety significantly predicted variance in aggression. Overall, the findings indicate that attachment anxiety is a predictor of dispositional anger and aggression, whilst attachment avoidance predicts the use of suppression to regulate anger, reduced self-reported anger responsivity and increased hostility. Implications for both theory and practice are discussed with suggestions for attachment and emotion regulation-based anger management interventions.