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Teen Attachment: Movies and TV Shows are Proven to Help

A new study on teen attachment was recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Ohio State University researchers Nathan Silver and Michael Slater conducted the study.

The researchers found, “People with attachment issues are more likely than others to be engaged in the stories. They feel connected to the fictional characters and think about what they would do if they were in the same situations.”

What Do These Stories Do to Help with Teen Attachment Issues?
  • They provide a safe space for teens to deal with their relationship issues.
  • Stories do more than just provide an escape. Movies and TV shows provide a way for teens to understand their problems.
  • These shows let teens vicariously meet their needs for intimacy in a way that may be difficult in the real world.
teen attachment
How was the Study Conducted?
  • 1,039 adult Americans participated in the study online.
  • The study wanted to find out how people coped with attachment insecurities.
  • Participants completed a variety of questionnaires about how they interact with the movies and TV shows they watched.
What Did the Study Find out about Teen Attachment?
  • Teens with attachment issues miss the opportunity to enjoy some life experiences.
  • Teens with avoidance issues can use the story world to think about how they would react if they had the chance.
  • Teens with high avoidance tended not to get emotionally close to their partners.
  • Teens with high anxiety behaved in “needy” ways, looking for constant reassurance from their partners.
  • Teens that scored high in anxious-avoidant attachment style engaged more in stories in a variety of ways.
    • More likely to say they were absorbed or transported into the story world.
    • Stories helped them understand people they didn’t know.
    • They imagined what would happen if the characters in shows made different choices.
    • They liked to imagine they knew their favorite TV and movie characters personally.
  • Teens with high anxiety attachment were more engaged with the stories.
  • Teens with high attachment avoidance and low anxiety were less engaged with the stories.
    • They showed the same avoidance behaviors with movies and TV as they do in real life.

Teens with anxiety and avoidance were “classic self-sabotagers.” Silver says, “They want supportive intimacy but tend to screw it up because they also have these avoidance behaviors. The story world provides these people with a safe place to deal with this ambivalence. That’s why I believe they are engaging more in the story world.”

TV and movies provide an outlet for teen attachment disorders. Silver says, “When they watch their favorite shows, people with attachment issues can imagine a relationship without the real-life problems, like the storybook romance of Jim and Pam on The Office.”

Silver is hopeful that “vicarious living through stories will help teens in real life.” The story world provides a “safe space” for teens with attachment issues to “cope with some of the problems they have with relationships.”

To learn more about teen diagnoses, click here