Attachment anxiety and avoidance are associated with cognitive performance in older couples

Attachment anxiety and avoidance are associated with cognitive performance in older couples

New research provides evidence that an insecure association is associated with cognitive performance in older couples. The results have been published in Journal of research in personality.

“I came across a chapter from a book that mentioned how attachment can be related to Alzheimer’s disease and I was addicted to it,” said study author Rebecca Weidmann, a postdoctoral fellow in the Close Relationships Laboratory at Michigan State University.

“The idea that what was happening in a romantic couple could be linked to cognitive decline in late adulthood was pretty cool to me. So I emailed Professor. Chopik – an attachment expert – to ask if he was interested in collaborating on a study on attachment and health Fortunately, we have planned, planned and conducted a study “Attachment and Neurodegenerative Diseases,” which provided data for the current article.”

A large body of research has shown that people can be either secure or insecure in their association with others, and insecure individuals can be either anxious or avoidant. Anxiously connected individuals agree with statements such as “I’m afraid my partner will abandon me,” while anxiously attached individuals agree with statements such as “I don’t feel comfortable opening up to my partner.”

Researchers had 1,043 couples (who had been together for at least six months) complete ratings of romantic attachment, cognitive impairment, dementia symptoms, memory performance, stress, and relationship satisfaction. Participants were 64.7 years old on average, and couples had been together for an average of 35.8 years.

Weidmann and Chopik found that an insecure association was associated with higher stress, and higher stress was associated with greater cognitive impairment for both participants themselves and their partners.

Participants associated with more anxiety tended to report more cognitive impairment, including greater loss of skills and worse memory of recent events. However, anxious attachment was not related to dementia symptoms or memory performance. On the other hand, the insane-related participants did not show a tendency for cognitive impairment. However, associates of avoidant individuals were more likely to report cognitive impairment and to show worse memory performance.

“The message from the study is that insecure attachment is differently related to cognitive health, depending on whether you look at anxious attachment or avoidant attachment,” Weidmann told PsyPost. “People associated with anxiety tend to have a lower self-rating of cognitive health, while partners of insanely related subjects tended to have a lower subjective rating of cognitive health but also to do worse on an objective memory task. These effects are not entirely explained by relationship satisfaction, suggesting that there may be other things going on in the couple that link insecure attachment to their cognitive health.”

The researchers controlled for a number of factors known to influence cognitive functioning and romantic attachment, including education levels, income, body mass index, relationship length, and general health. But the study, like all research, has some caveats.

“The main caveat is that it was a cross-sectional study,” Weidmann explained. “Although the sample was very large, and we measured cognitive health in several different ways, we still knew little about the directionality of effects. Is cognitive health deteriorating due to insecure attachment to romantic partners, or do people become more insecure attachment due to their and their partner’s cognitive decline? These are questions that need to be addressed in the future.”

The study, “Romantic Attachment, Stress, and Cognitive Performance in a Large Sample of Middle-aged and Older Couples,” authored by Rebekka Weidmann and William J. Chopik.

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