How Can I Become More Secure?: A Grounded Theory of Earning Secure Attachment


attachment insecurity, security, attachment, intrapsychic, interpersonal, trauma


The purpose of this study was to develop a grounded theory of earning secure attachment. This study included 15 women and 5 men who met the criteria of having a self‐reported history of attachment insecurity and demonstrated evidence of earned security. The grand tour research question, How do adults with a history of insecure attachment earn security?, was explored using constructivist grounded theory and semi‐structured interviews emphasizing processes of positive attachment change. The results describe a process model of change hinging on three interrelated categories: meta‐conditions of positive attachment change, making intrapsychic changes, and making interpersonal changes. Clinical implications include the importance of clients committing to the process, clients working with a clinician trained in trauma‐focused therapy, and clinicians being surrogate attachment figures for clients.

Original Publication Citation

Dansby Olufowote, R. A., Fife, S. T., Schleiden, C., Whiting, J. B.. (2020). How Can I Become More Secure?: A Grounded Theory of Earning Secure Attachment. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 46, 489– 506. doi:

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Marital and Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor