A Look at 5 Science-Based Questionnaires & Tests
Attachment styles can be measured through various methods, including self-report questionnaires, interviews, and observational assessments. In two recent meta-analyses, several instruments were evaluated on their psychometric properties (Justo‐Núñez et al., 2022; Ravitz et al., 2010).
Ravitz et al. (2010) examined 29 instruments, including interviews and self-report questions, that had been used to measure adults’ attachment styles over the last 25 years. Of these, 11 were found to have reliable psychometric properties and are recommended for use. In Justo‐Núñez et al. (2022), 24 self-reported instruments were evaluated, all of which were self-reported measures.
How to choose between tools
No tool is superior to the other. Deciding which tool to use is up to you and based solely on your needs. A shorter tool like the Adult Attachment Styles might be better if time is limited.
To measure the degree of attachment, consider the State Adult Attachment Questionnaire. These tools can also be used as discussion points, in which case, a short tool like the Relationships Questionnaire can be used to start the discussion.
While these measures provide valuable insights, various factors may influence individual responses, and context matters when interpreting the results.
The evaluated tools differ on several properties, listed below.
When selecting a specific test or measure, it is essential to consider its psychometric properties (Cook & Beckman, 2006). Although several psychometric properties exist (Cook & Beckman, 2006), the most important are validity (does the test measure what it says it does?) and reliability (are the test results stable?).
Tools with good psychometric properties can be used confidently in settings where the findings might be challenged, such as in a court of law, or are extremely important, for example in an educational setting.
Attachment: Category or a dimension
Tests differ on how attachment styles are measured. Some measure it as a category, whether or not the client has a particular style, while others measure it as a dimension (Ravitz et al., 2010).
If you want a test that measures which style your client has, consider a tool that measures the category rather than the dimension. Make sure to research what types of categories (or dimensions) are measured within the chosen tool.
Tests differ according to relationship. For example, the Relationship Questionnaire (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) evaluates the attachment style with romantic partners, whereas the Adult Attachment Styles is indiscriminate (Hazan & Shaver, 1987).
Be pragmatic about your tool choice. Consider the questions’ wording and your client. For example, a questionnaire about intimate, romantic relationships is not appropriate for a child.
Recommended scientific tools
We have only highlighted a few of the recommended tools in this post, but the complete list is in the cited manuscripts listed in the reference section.
Adult Attachment Styles
The most extensively used tool is the Adult Attachment Styles self-report questionnaire. It is a single-item self-report measure where clients are asked to pick from three descriptions the one that best corresponds to the current relationship (see Table 2 in Hazan & Shaver, 1987).
The descriptions are the core components of the following three attachment styles described by Ainsworth et al. (1978): secure, avoidant, and anxious.
Since it contains only one question, this tool is quick and easy to administer, but its reliability and validity are relatively high. This tool is best suited as a starting point for discussing attachment styles rather than a diagnostic tool. A copy of this questionnaire exists on the Fetzer Institute website.
A second tool is the Relationships Questionnaire, which was developed by Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) in response to Hazan and Shaver (1987).
Bartholomew and Horowitz argue that attachment styles should be considered to be dimensions rather than categories. The Relationships Questionnaire only comprises four statements, each describing a different attachment style, and interviewees show the extent to which each statement accurately describes their relationship with their partner on a scale from 1 to 7. Thus, the tool measures attachment styles as a dimension and category.
It is easy and quick to administer and has been used extensively in published research, but its reliability and validity could be higher. The statements are in Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) and the Fetzer Institute website.
Adult Attachment Scale and Revised-Adult Attachment Scale
The Adult Attachment Scale is a self-report questionnaire that assesses adult attachment styles based on Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) pioneering research into a tool to measure attachment styles.
Collins and Read (1990) had two aims: first, to address some criticisms of Hazan and Shaver (1987), and second, to add more nuanced questions. The Adult Attachment Scale is an 18-item scale, using a five-point Likert scale to measure each item ranging from 1 (not at all characteristic) to 5 (very characteristic).
These 18 items measure one of three constructs: dependence, anxiety, and closeness (see Table 2 in Collins & Read, 1990). Collins (1996) developed a revised version of the Adult Attachment Scale, titled the Revised-Adult Attachment Scale (RAAS).
The difference between the Adult Attachment Scale and the RAAS is the wording of one item and the replacement of three items to address ambiguity and improve reliability. These two tools are suitable for assessing client attachment styles because they are widely used in research and have good validity and reliability (Ravitz et al., 2010). The Adult Attachment Scale is also available for download.
The Adult Attachment Scale should not be confused with the Adult Attachment Styles self-report questionnaire discussed previously. They are different tools.
State Adult Attachment Questionnaire
The State Adult Attachment Questionnaire (SAAM; Gillath et al., 2009) is a more recently developed questionnaire. Unlike the previous tools that assumed that attachment styles are stable, the SAAM also considers situational factors and how these affect reported attachment styles.
The tool comprises 21 statements, which load (i.e., measure) onto three attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Each statement is rated on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), and respondents must indicate their degree of agreement currently. The psychometric properties, such as reliability and validity, are good (Gillath et al., 2009).
3 Attachment Style Quizzes & Scales
If a scientifically developed attachment style questionnaire is unnecessary, several quizzes exist on the web.
The first quiz exists on the Attachment Project website. With the free quiz, the Attachment Project provides information about attachment styles so readers can improve their style and stop negative generational patterns.
The quiz is split into different sections with Likert scale questions about:
- Maternal caregiver relationship
- Paternal caregiver relationship
- Romantic partner relationship
- General attachment
The results provide a measurement for each of the four question types and an overall outcome about attachment style. These detailed results are useful to understand whether your client has varying attachment styles for each relationship type. The questionnaire scoring is not freely available, and it must be completed online.
The Stonybrook Attachment Theory and Research Website is a great resource for clinicians interested in attachment theory. You will find information about workshops and training research papers, videos, and a list of questionnaires and scales suitable for children, teenagers, and adults.