Attachment Style Interview (ASI) measure

There has been relatively little development of contextualised interview approaches of attachment style in relation to support contexts. The ASI is the only one which includes a behavioural assessment of ongoing quality of relationship with partner, ‘Very Close Others’ and family of origin as the basis for a rating of ability to make and maintain relationships which equates with degree of security or functioning in relationships. Thus not only does it provide quantified information on the level of support (in terms of degree of confiding or active emotional support in key relationships), how positive or negative the interaction is, and how much felt attachment is in the relationship, but also provides descriptive information about the particular individual in their relationship.

This is in response to standardised semi-structured interview questions (taking around 60 minutes) supplemented by a open number of probing questions to elicit further descriptive material, which is then evidenced by questions of examples of behaviour (e.g. ‘can you describe a recent problem that you confided in your partner?’) or frequency (‘how often do you have arguments or rows?’) or intensity (‘how would you feel if the other person moved away to live?’). This information is tape recorded and then rated after the interview from the tape (taking around twice the interview length) on especially rated on a number of different scales, in especially designed interview packs, with benchmarked thresholds provided.

The ASI assesses five attachment styles (Enmeshed, Fearful, Angry-Dismissive, Withdrawn and Secure) It also determines the degree of insecurity of style present in the insecure styles, in terms of ‘marked, moderate or mild’ levels. These are determined by the poor quality of ongoing relationships (in terms of closeness, support and conflict) and the intensity of negative attachment attitudes. The resulting overall scale thus provides categories for both type and intensity of attachment style. Reliability of the measure is good, not only in its original London site with inter-rater correlations all over 0.75 but also when transposed to a study across 7 European and US sites and in Japan.

This interview assesses an individual's overall style of attachment based on detailed questioning of ongoing close relationships (partner and up to two adults named as close supportive figures, including friends or family) as well as global attitudes to attachment avoidance (e.g. mistrust, constraints on closeness, high self-reliance, angry interactions) and anxious attachment (e.g. desire for engagement with others, fear of intimacy, intolerance of separation and low self-reliance). From the combined information profiles of Enmeshed, Fearful, Angry-dismissive, Withdrawn or Secure styles are derived, largely based on those identified in previous measures (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Bartholomew & Shaver, 1998).

However, because of the clinical focus of the study, an additional classification of degree of insecurity is made, based on the extent to which behaviour and attitudes in relationships are dysfunctional. Thus within each style an individual can be assessed as 'markedly', 'moderately' or 'mildly' insecure. This is based both on behaviour such as the range of problematic interactions in relationships or the absence of support figures and attitudes concerning the intensity and pervasiveness of negativity in relation to intimacy. This measure of attachment style has proved to be highly related to major depression, including new onset of disorder, and also to depressive vulnerability such as childhood neglect/abuse, low self-esteem and range of negative characteristics in relationships. Prospective investigation with the ASI has shown it acts as a partial mediator between neglect and abuse in childhood and onset of depression or anxiety.

The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire is a self-report instrument validated against the ASI interview. This has shown good internal consistency, test-retest reliability and is predictive of depression.


Key references

Bifulco, A., Moran, P. M., Ball, C., & Bernazzani, O. (2002). Adult attachment style. I:Its relationship to clinical depression. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37, 50-59.

Bifulco, A., Moran, P. M., Ball, C., & Lillie, A. (2002). Adult attachment style. II: Its relationship to psychosocial depressive-vulnerability. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37, 60-67.

Bifulco, A., Kwon, J.-H., Moran, P., Jacobs, C., Bunn, A., & Beer, N. (2006). Adult attachment style as a mediator of childhood neglect/abuse and adult depression and anxiety. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Bifulco, A., Mahon, J., Kwon, J.-H., Moran, P., & Jacobs, C. (2003). The vulnerable attachment style questionnaire (VASQ): An interview-derived measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder. Psychological Medicine, 33, 1099-1110.


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