The evolution and function of adult attachment: A comparative and phylogenetic analysis

R. Chris Fraley, Claudia C. Brumbaugh, Michael J. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although the evolutionary functions of attachment in infant-caregiver relationships are undisputed, it is unclear what functions - if any - attachment serves in adult romantic relationships. The objective of this research was to examine the evolution and function of adult attachment (i.e., pair bonding) by applying comparative and phylogenetic methods to archival data collected on 2 diverse samples of mammalian species. The authors found that species exhibiting adult attachment were more likely than others to be characterized by paternal care, developmental immaturity or neoteny, small social groups, and small body sizes. The authors also used phylogenetic techniques to reconstruct the evolution of adult attachment and test alternative evolutionary models of the comparative correlates of pair bonding. Phylogenetic analyses suggested that the relationship between paternal care and adult attachment may be a functional one (i.e., due to convergent evolution) but that the relationship between neoteny and adult attachment may be due to homology (i.e., shared ancestry). Discussion focuses on the potential of comparative and phylogenetic methods for advancing the science of social and personality psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-746
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2005


  • Adult attachment
  • Close relationships
  • Comparative methods
  • Evolution
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution and function of adult attachment: A comparative and phylogenetic analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this