The Experience in Close Relationship Scale (ECR-S) is a 12 item self-report adult attachment style questionnaire focussed on close relationships. Based on Ainsworth’s infant attachment styles literature, this scale measures maladaptive attachment in adulthoods who are in a romantic relationship. The ECR-S gives scores on the two factors important in adult attachment:
The scale is designed to assess a general “trait” pattern of adult attachment and is helpful in conceptualising how clients respond emotionally to close relationships. When used as part of a therapeutic process, this tool is helpful in collaborating with a client to create a shared formulation around the underpinnings of relationships difficulties.
If a respondent is not currently in a romantic relationship the therapist can ask them to recall how they felt when they were last in one.
Brennan et al. (1998) reported that the ECR long version had a high level of internal consistency within the two factors, with coefficient alphas of .91 and .94 for the Anxiety and Avoidance subscales, respectively, in undergraduate students. Wei et al. (2007) confirmed in their sample (N=851) that the short version of the scale had two factors with high internal consistency, with coefficient alphas of .78 (Anxiety) and .84 (Avoidance). Correlations between the Anxiety and Avoidance subscales were low (r = .19), which indicated that these two measures reflected distinct dimensions of attachment.
Consistent with the attachment theory predictions, the construct validity of the ECR-S was supported by the positive association of attachment anxiety with emotional reactivity and the positive association of attachment avoidance with emotional cutoff (Wei et al. 2007).
Convergent validity was established through correlation analyses with various tests (Wei et al. 2007): Excessive reassurance seeking was significantly associated with attachment anxiety but not with attachment avoidance. Depression was significantly associated with both attachment anxiety and avoidance. In summary, the ECR-S possess a stable factor structure and acceptable internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and construct validity.
Results consist of two scores for the two separate factors; attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance. The minimum score for each scale is 7 and a maximum score of 42. In addition, scores are represented in terms of percentile ranks compared to a normative sample. A percentile of 50 represents typical (and healthy) attachment, whereas higher percentiles represent more difficulties with adult attachment compared to peers.
People who score high on either or both of these dimensions are assumed to have an insecure adult attachment orientation. By contrast, people with low levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance can be viewed as having a secure adult attachment orientation (Brennan et al., 1998). In addition, higher scores are significantly and positively related to depression, anxiety, interpersonal distress, or loneliness.
Wei, M., Russell, D. W., Mallinckrodt, B., & Vogel, D. L. (2007). The experiences in Close Relationship Scale (ECR)-Short Form: Reliability, validity, and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 88, 187-204.
Brennan, K. A., Clark, C. L., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). Self-report measurement of adult attachment: An integrative overview. In J. A. Simpson &W. S. Rholes (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 46–76). New York: Guilford.