Adult Attachment in the Sexual Minority

by Amanda Ng (’17)

sexual minority
Fig. 1: Attachment can be altered by multiple types of social experiences.

The theory of attachment states that the development of a secure attachment to a primary caregiver during the first two years of life predicts aspects of one’s life, such as behavior in adult relationships and overall well-being. In infancy, a secure or insecure attachment is developed when a primary caregiver is either consistently or inconsistently responsive to the child, leading the child to have the expectation that their needs will or will not be consistently met. As adults, this secure attachment created during childhood allows individuals to create intimate and emotional bonds, whereas those with insecure attachment have difficulty forming bonds because of fear of abandonment and lack of commitment. Adult attachment is also directly connected to different social stresses individuals experience based on their different situations. In particular, those of a sexual minority can feel a specific kind of social stress called “sexual minority stress.”

As found by researchers at New York University and University of Michigan, the attachment of those in the sexual minority can alter depending on their caregivers’ reaction to their “coming out.” For example, although many individuals in the sexual minority develop a secure attachment to their parents early in life, this attachment can be altered to become more insecure when children are rejected by their parents because of their sexual orientation. However, if they are supported rather than rejected at this instance of “sexual minority stress,” they are better able to handle the stress and remain secure into adulthood. Sexual minority individuals who are secure in their youth also have a higher tendency to be more open with their parents, allowing for their secure relationship to continue on into adulthood.

In the future, research in this field should tackle the social stigma associated with being part of the sexual minority and how it affects the alteration of secure to insecure attachment.



  1. Cook, B. Calebs, The integrated attachment and sexual minority stress model: understanding the role of adult attachment in the health and well-being of sexual minority men. Behavioral Medicine 42, 164-175 (2016). doi: 10.1080/08964289.2016.1165173
  2. Image retrieved from:

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