Enhancing the “broaden-and-build” cycle of attachment security as a means of overcoming prejudice, discrimination, and racism

Mario Mikulincer, Phillip R. Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Attachment theory emphasizes both the importance of supportive relationship partners, beginning in infancy, for developing a sense of security, and the adaptive benefits of this sense. In this article, we consider bolstering the sense of attachment security as a means of reducing and overcoming prejudice, discrimination, and racism. We review basic concepts of attachment theory, focusing on what we call the broaden-and-build cycle of attachment security. We review studies showing that the sense of attachment security is associated with reduced prejudice and less discriminatory attitudes and behavior toward people outside one’s own social or racial group. Finally, we propose theoretical ideas and research suggesting that attachment security can protect against the adverse psychological effects of others’ acts of prejudice and discrimination toward oneself. We conclude that, despite large gaps in the research literature, attachment theory is a useful conceptual framework for understanding and combatting prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-273
Number of pages14
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • Attachment
  • intergroup relations
  • prejudice
  • racism
  • security


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