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With or without you: Preliminary evidence that attachment avoidance predicts nondeployed spouses’ reactions to relationship challenges during deployment

APA Citation:

Borelli, J. L., Sbarra, D. A., Snavely, J. E., McMakin, D. L., Coffey, J. K., Ruiz, S. K., Wang, B. A., & Chung, S. Y. (2014). With or without you: Preliminary evidence that attachment avoidance predicts nondeployed spouses’ reactions to relationship challenges during deployment. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(6), 478-487. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037780

Abstract Created by REACH:

Attachment avoidance, or having a relationship schema that involves avoiding thoughts or feelings about a threatened relationship, may influence military spouses adjustment during the deployment cycle. This study examined the effects of military wives levels of attachment avoidance on their relationship emotions and thoughts. Data suggest


Mental health

Branch of Service:

Air Force
Marine Corps
Multiple branches

Military Affiliation:

Active Duty

Subject Affiliation:

Spouse of service member or veteran
Military families


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Empirical Study
Longitudinal Study
Prospective Study
Quantitative Study


Borelli, Jessica L., Sbarra, David A., Snavely, Jonathan E., McMakin, Dana L., Coffey, John K., Ruiz, Sarah K., Wang, Binghuang A., Chung, Samuel Y.


Although much is written about the impact of deployment on nondeployed spouses (NDSs) and couple relationships, few empirical studies address this directly. Using attachment theory as a guiding framework, this study followed 32 NDSs across a military deployment. We examined the prospective association between NDSs' attachment avoidance and their response to relational challenges (assessed using both correlational and experimental designs) during a deployment. Two weeks before deployment, NDSs provided self-reports of their attachment avoidance and relationship satisfaction. During the deployment, they provided stream-of-consciousness speech samples regarding (a) the deployment and (b) their anticipated reunion with their spouse: after each speech sample they reported on their subjective anxiety. Based on random assignment, NDSs then completed either an experimenter-led "personal" or "relational" memory savoring task, reporting on their emotional state before and after the task. Two weeks after the deployment, NDSs reported on their relationship satisfaction. Higher avoidance was associated with more frequent anxiety word use and higher self-reported anxiety when discussing the anticipated reunion. Avoidance moderated the association between savoring condition and postsavoring negative emotion, such that in the relational condition only, greater avoidance was related to more negative emotion. Postsavoring emotional state moderated the longitudinal association between predeployment attachment avoidance and postdeployment relationship satisfaction. Results are discussed in terms of their contribution to the literature on coping during attachment stressors as well as their implications for treatment with NDSs undergoing deployment. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

Pomona College, JLB
University of Arizona, DAS
Claremont Graduate University, JES
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, DLM
Claremont Graduate University, JKC
University of Minnesota, SKR
Pomona College, BAW
Pomona College, SYC


anxiety, attachment, avoidance, military deployment, savoring

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary


American Psychoanalytic Association, US

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