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Commitment Phobia May be Blamed on Relationship With Parents

Update Date: Dec 11, 2012 12:38 PM EST

Afraid to commit yourself to a relationship? Blame it on your parents, says a new study from Tel Aviv University.

For the study, the researchers studied the romantic history of 58 adults aged between 22 and 28 found that those who are afraid to commit themselves to a relationship are most likely a product of unresponsive or over-intrusive parenting, says Dr. Sharon Dekel, a psychologist and researcher at the Bob Shappell School of Social Work. Dr. Dekel and her fellow researcher, Prof. Barry Farber of Columbia University.

The researchers have found that 22.4 percent of the participants displayed anxiety about intimacy, reluctance to commit or felt that their partner was "clingy." The people reportedly were satisfied in their relationships when compared to people who wanted to be in secure relationships.

The researchers through the study have found that while both secure and avoidant individuals expressed a desire for intimacy in relationships, avoidant individuals are conflicted about this need due the complex nature if parent-child relationship they experienced as a child.

Dr. Dekel says that during times of stress, infants look for emotional support from caregivers or parents. However, if the parent is unresponsive or overly intrusive, the child learns to avoid them. The adult relationships may be a reflection of these experiences, the researchers believe.

When avoidant individuals get into a relationship, they try to satisfy their unmet childhood needs, Dr. Dekel explains.

"Avoidant individuals are looking for somebody to validate them, accept them as they are, can consistently meet their needs and remain calm-including not making a fuss about anything or getting caught up in their own personal issues."

She says that the tendency to avoid dependence on a partner is actually a defense mechanism rather than an avoidance of intimacy.

This group needs to be studied further because apart from the fact that these people have a very limited ability to continue a satisfying romantic relationship, they are also less happier than others notes Dr. Dekel. There is still more to understand and discover about their needs, perhaps through more sophisticated neurological studies, she suggests.

Further, Dr. Dekel says that sometimes, some experiences bring about permanent change in people's relationship styles. For example, after a traumatic event, survivors show a greater ability and desire to form closer relationships, Dr. Dekel observed in a previous study in the Journal of Psychological Trauma.

The study was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

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