Effects of culture and social cynicism on anxious attachment transference from mother to partner
Yueran Wen (Renmin University of China), Liu Liu (Renmin University of China), and Chunyong Yuan (People’s Liberation Army Nanjing Institute of Politics, Shanghai), 2013, 41(8), 1253–1266

Many of us have felt concern at the potential impact of some of our friends’ anxious parenting styles. Will the children grow up to also be anxious and with little sense of independence? Will the children’s relationships in later life be colored by the intensive coddling that they experienced in their early years? The authors of this article have compared the anxious attachment transference from mother to partner between two samples: one from Hong Kong and one from the US. Given that the mother is most often the primary caregiver of a child, it is accepted that she will model the emotional skills that the child will learn and adopt, and it is these models that can, and often do, shape the child’s interactions with others in later life. We are all aware of people who are anxious parents (and may be guilty ourselves).

The question is whether or not the child will shake off the anxious-attachment shackles as they grow and be influenced by a wider social circle and culture. The authors decided to compare a Hong Kong sample with a U.S. sample because they proposed “that among U.S. people the transference of attachment styles from mother to romantic partner would be more likely [than among Hong Kong Chinese] to be moderated by other individual differences, such as the individual’s world views” (Wen, Liu, & Yuan 2013). I was eager to find out if this was, in fact, the case and whether or not an individual’s level of self-direction value would mediate the effect of culture in the relationship between social cynicism and transference of attachment style from mother to romantic partner.

There was (possibly surprising to some) no clear-cut result in the study. The results suggest that “the impact of social cynicism beliefs on anxious attachment transference is not universally the same and is subject to the effect of the socialization processes and practices that differ across cultures” (Wen et al., 2013). While anxious attachment transference may not be desirable, it is also not a given, even for a child who grows up in a culture that does not highly value self-direction. The children of helicopter parents will not necessarily become helicopter partners.

Emily Duncan | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal