Comparison of attachments in real-world and virtual-world relationships

Debra Quackenbush, Jon G. Allen, James Chris Fowler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: The burgeoning of online social networks raises questions about the quality and value of these interpersonal relationships. The present study employed an established measure of attachment security to compare the nature of individuals’ attachments in virtual-world relationships with those in real-world relationships and also examined the relative strength of attachments in the two types of relationships. Method: Participants were 125 volunteers recruited online who had established relationships in Second Life, a popular virtual world. Participants consented and completed all measures anonymously online. Results: The findings indicate that equally strong attachments are formed in virtual- and real-world relationships; there is modest correspondence in the quality of attachment in the two types of relationship; the strength of attachments in the virtual world is influenced by capacity to immerse oneself in fantasy; duration of the relationship is correlated with strength of attachment in both worlds; and emotional wellbeing relates to strength of attachment in real-world relationships and lower attachment anxiety in virtual-world relationships. Conclusions: The value of attachment relationships in virtual worlds calls for further investigation. Moreover, consistent with the growing employment of telemedicine, the potential for clinical interventions in virtual worlds merits consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-327
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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