Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 88 Issue 4 (December 2015), Pages 351-480

Adult attachment insecurity and dyadic adjustment: The mediating role of self‐criticism (pages 378-393)


Although it is well established that adult attachment is associated with relationship quality, the mechanisms involved in this association are still poorly understood. Individual variables that are shaped in early attachment experiences, such as self‐criticism, may be particularly important. The present study aimed to investigate the mediating role of self‐criticism and self‐reassurance on the association between attachment‐related anxiety and avoidance and dyadic adjustment.

Design and methods

About 230 individuals from a community sample completed an online battery of self‐report measures of adult attachment, dyadic adjustment, and forms of self‐criticism and self‐reassuring. A parallel mediation model was tested.


Data showed that attachment anxiety and avoidance were associated with poorer dyadic adjustment through high levels of self‐criticism in the form of an inadequate self.


Our findings highlight the importance of targeting feelings of self‐inadequacy in couple therapy to promote better dyadic adjustment and relationship functioning. The innovative contribution of this work is the identification of a new mechanism underlying the association between adult attachment and dyadic functioning.

Practitioner points

  • Self‐criticism in the form of an inadequate self mediates the association between attachment and dyadic adjustment.
  • Although correlated with attachment dimensions and dyadic adjustment, the hated self and the reassured self do not act as mediators of the relationship between attachment and dyadic adjustment.
  • It seems important to evaluate and address feelings of inadequacy in the context of couple therapy.

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