Late Life Attachment in Context: Patterns of Relating Among Men and Women from Seven Ethnic Groups

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Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to develop the later life attachment literature by providing data contrasting patterns of attachment among 616 older men and women (aged 50 to 70) from seven ethnic groups in the United States: African Americans, English-speaking Caribbeans, Haitians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Eastern Europeans, and European Americans. A multivariate analysis of the variance with ethnicity, gender, and income as factors predicting four dimensional styles of attachment (secure, dismissive, preoccupied, and fearful avoidant) revealed numerous ethnic differences in attachment styles. Most notably, Haitians reported greater dismissiveness than all other groups, with Eastern Europeans reporting more than Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, European Americans and African Americans. Haitians also reported lower fearful avoidance than all other groups. Dominicans and Puerto Ricans reported greater preoccupation than Haitians, African Americans, and English-speaking Caribbeans. The most notable interactions with gender and income revealed that although preoccupation was lower among African American, English-speaking Caribbean, Haitian, and European American women versus men, it was greater among Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Eastern European women, and that whereas security was generally high among European Americans notwithstanding income, income strongly impacted attachment security in other groups. These differences are interpreted in light of ethnic differences in historical, familial, and religious contexts. This study provides a glimpse into the ethnic and cultural diversity in the ways in which older adults relate to significant others.

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