Marital stress has been associated with immune dysregulation, including increased production of interleukin-6 (IL-6). Attachment style, one’s expectations about the availability and responsiveness of others in intimate relationships, appears to influence physiological stress reactivity and thus could influence inflammatory responses to marital conflict. Thirty-five couples were invited for two 24-hour admissions to a hospital research unit. The first visit included a structured social support interaction, while the second visit comprised the discussion of a marital disagreement. A mixed effect within-subject repeated measure model indicated that attachment avoidance significantly influenced IL-6 production during the conflict visit but not during the social support visit. Individuals with higher attachment avoidance had on average an 11% increase in total IL-6 production during the conflict visit as compared to the social support visit, while individuals with lower attachment avoidance had, on average, a 6% decrease in IL-6 production during the conflict visit as compared to the social support visit. Furthermore, greater attachment avoidance was associated with a higher frequency of negative behaviors and a lower frequency of positive behaviors during the marital interaction, providing a mechanism by which attachment avoidance may influence inflammatory responses to marital conflict. In sum, these results suggest that attachment avoidance modulates marital behavior and stress-induced immune dysregulation.
Gouin, Jean-Phillipe; Glaser, Ronald; Loving, Timothy J.; Malarkey, William B.; Stowell, Jeffrey R.; Houts, Carrie; and Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., "Attachment avoidance predicts inflammatory responses to marital conflict" (2009). Faculty Research and Creative Activity. 3.