(Attachment theory) How Loved Children Become Giving Adults

“Attachment theory” seeks to explain how individuals respond when they feel hurt by a loved one, or separated from them. The theory predicted—and a great deal of research has subsequently verified—that a child who felt like they could turn to a caregiver for help or warmth will grow up to find adult intimacy easier to establish. Psychologists labeled this a “secure” attachment style….

Richman and her colleagues investigated whether attachment style spills over into other domains of adult life—specifically, charitable giving. Many fundraising appeals depend heavily on empathy to provoke giving, trying to create a sense of connection between the prospective donor and a person who needs help. Can that appeal backfire with someone who avoids intimate connections?

After documenting the key role that empathy played in decisions of avoidant participants, the researchers conducted a second study to see if they could remove the experience of emotional investment—and thus create a situation where avoidantly attached people responded the same as other participants in a situation that might involve empathy.

By Josh Elmore