Parasocial Attachment: Framework and Function

Lydia Reedstrom

Name: Lydia Reedstrom
Major: Psychology
Advisor: Dr. Mike Casey
The purpose of these studies was to situate parasocial attachment within the traditional attachment framework and then explore what function parasocial attachment and relationships may serve through the lens of social needs and attachment style. The first study demonstrated that attachment to a favorite fictional character elicited the attachment behaviors of proximity seeking, secure base, and separation protest. Attachment anxiety positively predicted attachment to fictional characters, while attachment avoidance negatively predicted it. Surprisingly, individuals with an avoidant attachment reported greater attachment to and engagement with fictional characters than those with a secure attachment. This finding directly contradicts previous literature that finds avoidantly attached individuals to engage the least parasocially. The second study examined two forms of parasocial relationship: parasocial friendship and romance, to determine how need to belong and need for social support impacted relationship formation along with attachment style. Greater need to belong predicted both parasocial friendship and romance, while greater need for social support predicted only parasocial friendship. Like with Study 1, attachment anxiety positively predicted these relationships, while attachment avoidance negatively predicted them. This study also found that avoidantly attached individuals had stronger parasocial friendships and romances than secure individuals. One possible explanation for this finding is the COVID-19 pandemic that may have made parasocial engagement necessary or enticing to avoidant individuals in such isolating and distressing times. Future research should focus on the therapeutic potential of parasocial attachment and relationships and how these relationships can be used in adaptive ways.

Lydia will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

Posted in I.S. Symposium 2021, Independent Study on April 3, 2021.