Term of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Amy Hackney

Committee Member 1

Nicolette Rickert

Committee Member 2

Virginia Wickline


According to Bowlby’s definition of attachment theory, insecure attachment systems negatively regulate individuals' behaviors, thoughts, and feelings (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). As individuals age, negative views of others and the self can grow, inevitably hindering relationships with others and self-esteem. Empirical research suggests a strong positive relationship between low socioeconomic status (SES) and developing an insecure attachment style among children (Sherry et al., 2013; van IJzendoorn & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2010). With many similarities between child and adult attachment models, there is a gap in the literature examining the impact of lower SES on adult attachments. Although socioeconomic status's effects on general health were previously researched in various contexts involving attachment systems, there is a gap in studies specifically looking at the impact of lower socioeconomic status on adult attachment. The current study randomly assigned 52 undergraduate participants (62% women, 55% white, and 42% black/bi-racial) to imagine one of two operationalizations of imagined financial difficulties, lower socioeconomic status or unexpected job loss, or a control condition of imagined job security. Participants then completed assessments of state attachment levels of security, anxiety, and avoidance. Results showed a statistically significant increase in state levels of attachment avoidance (p = .02, 95% CI: .163, 2.11) in addition to a statistically significant decrease in state levels of secure attachment (p = .02, 95% CI: -1.99, -.132) when participants imagined a job loss compared to the control group. The evidence implies that state avoidance increases after an unexpected loss of employment and could result in an individual experiencing negative emotional and behavioral changes toward loved ones.

Research Data and Supplementary Material