“We’re both in the trenches together”: a pluralistic exploration of attachment behaviour dynamics in a heterosexual couple relationship across the transition to second-time parenthood

PhD thesis


Bailey-Rodriguez, D. 2018. “We’re both in the trenches together”: a pluralistic exploration of attachment behaviour dynamics in a heterosexual couple relationship across the transition to second-time parenthood. PhD thesis Middlesex University Psychology
TypePhD thesis
Title“We’re both in the trenches together”: a pluralistic exploration of attachment behaviour dynamics in a heterosexual couple relationship across the transition to second-time parenthood
AuthorsBailey-Rodriguez, D.
Abstract

Attachment theory provides a framework for categorising behaviours in close relationships by individuals during times of stress. Attachment behaviours are commonly thought to be determined in early childhood experiences and assumed to hold through to adulthood. Further, these behaviours become particularly salient across life events, such as the transition to parenthood. Attachment styles range from security-based, in which individuals seek to alleviate distress by seeking and receiving proximity to an attachment figure, to insecurity-based styles in which attachment figures are viewed as insufficiently available. These styles have been identified primarily through the use of quantitative methods. However, this risks reducing the intricacy of relational behaviours to discrete and exclusive styles. The use of qualitative methods offers one way to preserve the complexity of relational experiences but there are a limited amount of studies which use this approach. The use of pluralistic qualitative methods allows for more holistic insight by viewing the complexities of attachment from multi-dimensional perspectives and is the methodological focus of this study.
The research presents a longitudinal single case study which explores the attachment behaviours of a couple during their transition to second-time parenthood. It uses multiple methods of data collection, including individual semi-structured interviews to gather accounts of experience, diaries to gather accounts of everyday practices and behaviours, and joint unstructured interviews to gather collaborative accounts of the couple relationship. Narrative analysis is used to understand how identities are formed and reformed over the longitudinal period, and gives insight to how the participants make sense of their feelings and emotions. A psycho-social reading of the data enables understanding of some of the internal and external conflicts that the participants negotiate during this period. The plurality of epistemological and ontological paradigms brought by the different methods highlights the complex variation and intricate manners in which the couple’s emotion regulation strategies affect the dynamics of their relationship.
Key findings of the research illustrate that individuals engage with a variety of attachment behaviours at any given point suggesting that attachment is not a fixed feature; attachment history becomes more salient after the transition to second-time parenthood; insecure attachment behaviours (mainly avoidant ones) tend to be more marked; relationship satisfaction decreases following the birth of the second child; and the parenting relationship becomes the couple relationship after the birth of the second child. The research shows how pluralistic methods challenge traditional views of attachment as fixed and brings new insight to relational experiences by considering them as fluid and dynamic processes, informed by context, subjective meaning-making and external events across the transition to second-time parenthood.

LanguageEnglish
Department namePsychology
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print19 Dec 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited19 Dec 2018
Accepted06 Jul 2018
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
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