People with high attachment anxiety and people with high attachment avoidance both reported low life satisfaction and low relationship satisfaction in a new study.

Those with attachment anxiety also reported low financial satisfaction, the researchers found.

The study also shows that those with high attachment anxiety and those with high attachment avoidance engaged in more irresponsible financial behaviors. They also perceived their partners’ financial behaviors as being irresponsible.

The researchers based their work on data collected from 635 college-educated young adults in romantic relationships.

“This study suggests that romantic attachment orientation can affect financial behaviors and perceptions of partners’ financial behaviors,” says lead author Xiaomin Li, a doctoral student in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona.


It’s well-established in the scientific literature that finances play a significant role in well-being. Li’s study highlights how attachment orientation can affect well-being via finances.

“People’s own less responsible financial behaviors and their perceptions of their romantic partners’ less responsible financial behaviors were associated with multiple life outcomes,” says Li.

A person’s attachment orientation usually develops in early childhood and persists throughout a person’s lifetime for all different types of relationships, including romantic ones, Li says. Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance are both considered “insecure attachment orientations.”

Li and her colleagues found that for study participants with attachment anxiety, the participants’ own irresponsible financial behaviors associated with low financial satisfaction and low life satisfaction. Participants’ negative perceptions of their partners’ behaviors also associated with low financial satisfaction and low life satisfaction, as well as low relationship satisfaction.


For participants high in attachment avoidance, their negative perceptions of their partners’ financial behaviors—but not their own irresponsible financial behaviors—associated with low relationship satisfaction.

Those with high attachment anxiety and those with high attachment avoidance may engage in irresponsible financial behavior for different reasons, Li says.

“People who are high in attachment anxiety may use money to get attention from other people,” she explains. For example, they might buy expensive gifts to try to win a partner’s love.

On the other hand, those with attachment avoidance—who tend to be more dismissive of others and rely primarily on themselves—may engage in less responsible spending for their own gain.

“Some researchers have found that people with high attachment avoidance place a high value on materialism,” Li says. Therefore, they may engage in compulsive buying or make expensive purchases as a way of showing that they are “better than others,” she says.

There may also be different explanations for why anxious and avoidant study participants both perceived their partners’ behaviors as irresponsible.

Those high in attachment avoidance simply may not value their partner very highly, Li says. On the other hand, those high in attachment anxiety might distrust their partners as the result of their own insecurity in the relationship.

Li hopes future studies will continue to explore how nonfinancial factors, such as attachment orientation, may affect financial behaviors and perceptions and, in turn, well-being.

The research appears in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

Additional coauthors are from the University of Arizona, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Source: University of Arizona


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