An Attachment-Theory Perspective on Social Support in Close Relationships

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Social support is vital to health and emotional well-being, but people differ in their willingness and ability to engage in effective social support processes in close relationships. This chapter uses attachment theory as a framework for understanding social support dynamics in intimate relationships. The chapter begins with a review of three behavioral systems (attachment, exploration, and caregiving) that are relevant to social support interactions. Next, the chapter presents a theoretical framework for exploring the interpersonal dynamics involved in support seeking and support provision in close relationships. This framework considers normative processes as well as the ways in which these processes are shaped by individual differences in adult attachment styles. Finally, the chapter presents a review of recent empirical work on social support in couples from an attachment perspective.

Recommended Citation

Collins N. L., Ford, M. B., & Feeney, B. C. (2011). An attachment-theory perspective on social support in close relationships. In L. Horowitz & S. Strack (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal psychology: Theory, research, assessment, and therapeutic interventions (pp. 209-232). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.