Demand-withdraw communication in couples: An attachment perspective

Molly Millwood, Jennifer Waltz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Research has demonstrated that a difference between partners in desired level of intimacy appears to be a factor in the development of the problematic demand-withdraw communication pattern. Generally, such research has taken an individual approach, exploring one partner's desires and preferences, rather than examining the couple as the unit of analysis. Prior to the current study, demand-withdraw communication had not been explored from the perspective of adult attachment, particularly a couple's specific attachment style pairing. To examine the possible connection between attachment styles in couples and demand-withdraw communication, we asked 147 couples to complete self-report measures of attachment style, discrepancy in desired intimacy, and demand-withdraw communication. Results suggest that compared with securely attached couples, insecure and mixed couples (in which one or both partners are insecurely attached) exhibit high discrepancies in desired level of intimacy and high levels of demand-withdraw communication. Implications for couple therapy, attachment theory, and understanding demand-withdraw communication are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-320
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Couple and Relationship Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 7 2008


  • Adult attachment style
  • Couple therapy
  • Demand-withdraw communication
  • Emotional intimacy
  • Relationship functioning


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