How significant is delusional jealousy in terms of attachment patterns and self-protective attachment strategies? Does attachment, and the Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaption (DMM) in particular, provide better insight into this behavior pattern than other psychological models? We’ll explore these questions in the DMM Coffee House on March 22, 2022.
Jealousy in attachment science, overview and questions
The DMM only makes a minor acknowledgement of jealousy, at least in Assessing Adult Attachment (the Yellow Book). Shaver and Mikulincer’s social psychology perspective on attachment, sometimes described as romantic attachment theory, sees jealousy as a key concept in what the DMM describes as C-patterns, and they have identified sub-patterns. Marazziti, et al., 2010. Psychodynamic theory identifies manifestations and consequences of delusional and obsessive jealousy in detail, but struggles with the “Why” and “So what” questions. Batinic, et al., 2013. DV theory and checklists consistently identify jealousy as an important indicator. In my divorce/custody/family law cases, whether involving “DV”, children, or just property division issues, I have found evidence that the other party, usually using some attachment C-strategy, has exhibited intensely transformed information turned into unassuageable jealousy and aggression in at least 60-70% of my cases.
What does this mean? Why hasn’t the DMM identified this more clearly? Why has the romantic attachment theory (with much less sophisticated assessment methods) better identified it? What is the function of such jealousy and the associated danger? Can we define this issue more clearly with DMM concepts as we can do with shame and humiliation? Is jealousy a “prime” concept, or better seen as a subtopic of another concept? Is an intense expression of jealousy sometimes/usually/almost always an indicator that the relationship will be fraught with future danger for the target of jealousy? So many questions…
A brief definition
Delusional jealousy can be defined as intense and persistent jealous feelings with minimal, no, or bizarre evidence to support allegations of infidelity. The feeling of jealousy and accusations of infidelity are delusional in that they are based on made up facts.
This is completely separate from concepts like schizophrenic delusions.
The concept, in DMM attachment terms, relates to information processing, and how people change, distort, omit, falsify, deny and otherwise change accurate information. The inaccurate information drives their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Information/facts which are made up is considered delusional information, and is an indicator of an attachment pattern that involves intense challenges (and usually intense childhood experiences) to their information and neural processing development. We would expect to see this in the higher C-patterns of C7/8, C5/6, and possibly C3/4.
Delusional jealousy is often, or usually, unassuageable. That is, no amount of effort can help the person change their mind about their feelings of jealousy. This is consistent with findings from non-attachment research. Yet, unanswered questions include how does it begin, and before it can bloom into a full blown problem, how can it be identified early and what steps can be taken to nip it in the bud?
FYI, delusional jealousy is sometimes referred to in research literature with other terms such as pathological jealousy, obsessive jealousy, morbid jealousy, and sometimes Othello Syndrome.
Three intense examples
One example would be a woman who is 5-10 minutes late coming home from work, and she is accused of stopping to have sex with a stranger or a known person. This may be a constant accusation, made even when she is not late on the supplemental delusion that she had left work early.
Another is where a man and woman are shopping for groceries and the man takes 5 minutes to find and use the restroom, and is accused of having sex with a stranger in the bathroom.
A more extreme example would be where a wife walks across the street to the house of her mother, who lives alone, to get a cup of sugar and returns within a few minutes, and her husband accuses her of having sex with a stranger at her mother’s house.
The common element is that infidelity is accused when it is extremely unlikely, if not a bizarre accusation.
A little more detail about the attachment theory view
Assessing Adult Attachment, the published DMM manual for coding the Adult Attachment Interview, references “jealousy” only one time. “[The C5-6] pattern is associated with histories of family complicity, current relationships that are jealous, entangling, and unstable, and where there is a risk of violence.” Page 219, Kindle version.
Duschinsky’s sweeping book on attachment history, Cornerstones of attachment research, discusses jealousy a few times in the context of romantic attachment (and also mentions Ainsworth’s experience of her mother’s jealousy when Ainsworth was physically close to her father).
Assessing Adult Attachment identifies shame as relating to A-patterns, but fails to identify humiliation at all. CSI hypothesized that humiliation is the opposite of shame and thus likely a sensitive emotion in C-patterns. In prior DMM Coffee House sessions, and other DMM trainings, participating clinicians have agreed with this hypothesis. Do affects like jealousy and humiliation show us some of the shortcomings of the DMM, or it’s methods for developing theory? If so, what is the significance? Is it time to take another look at what other attachment models offer, and if so, how, or how the AAI might be restructured?
Prevalence: Delusional jealousy may be common, and highly associated with violence
I recently realized that delusional jealousy might be very common in some contexts. I analyzed two cohorts of client-cases to look for it. I had a previous cohort which I analyzed for general DMM patterns and I revisited that study to look for jealousy, and then I did second cohort analysis for DMM pattern and jealousy. In the cases where I could determine if there was or was not evidence of delusional jealousy, 60-63% of the cases did have evidence of it. There was another group of cases for which I was unable to determine if there was or was not any evidence, so it’s possible up to another 10% of cases had evidence for it. In every case where delusional jealousy was present, the person was also identified as using high C-attachment strategies.
In other words, 60-70% of intense-form divorce cases may involve some amount of behavior that is easily described as involving delusional jealousy. That is a remarkable number.
My research was non-scientific. However, scientific research findings seem to be consistent, and also finds very high rates of aggressive or violent behavior where delusional jealousy is found. (See for example, Silva, et al., 1998; Rakovec, et al., 2014; Reutens, et al., 2022.)
This information raises this question: is it possible that delusional jealousy is one of the few markers clinicians can use to quickly identify attachment system patterns and start addressing them with specificity?
In the DV context, isolation is a key marker, and solid evidence for it is one of the strong indicators that coercive control may be happening. At the same time, it feels to me that isolation is a more well-known concept and marker than jealousy. If that’s true, should it be the other way around? Is isolation a consequence of jealousy? Is jealousy a better or more efficient, or at least equal, marker to work with?
Romantic attachment, incorporating some language from psychodynamic theory, defines romantic jealousy as “a perception of a threat of loss of a valued relationship to a real or imagined rival which includes affective, cognitive and behavioral components ….. Which is heterogeneous [and dimensional] in intensity, persistence and insight.” Marazziti, 2010. These authors claim jealousy shares characteristics with attachment, and both aim to maintain togetherness, are triggered by separation, and involve the same basic emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness, and both elicit a sense of safety.
Romantic attachment further teases out differences in the frequency and pattern of jealous expression. Preoccupied and fearful-avoidant (DMM C-even) patterns tend to be jealous of rivals and also involve more surveillance behaviors. Secure (DMM B) patterns are more sensitive to emotional infidelity than sexual. Dismissing (DMM A) patterns are sensitive to sexual infidelity. These findings at least hint to some issue complexity in jealousy. How might we port these findings over to the DMM patterns?
Finally, just as a curious observation, I note that Shakespeare’s “Green with envy” coincides with Crittenden’s use of green for the C strategies in the DMM Circumplex.
Please join us and share your thoughts as we explore this topic in the next DMM Coffee House.
Mark Baumann, DMM Coffee House host
Date: Tuesday, 22 March 2022 (live, not recorded)
Length: 120 minutes
Host/Facilitator: Mark Baumann, for introductory thoughts and group coordination
Platform: Zoom meeting
Session for: Any professional interested in DMM attachment theory and science. Invite your colleagues.
Sponsor: Conflict Science Institute
Session times:(US/EU/Africa/India): NOTE: SPECIAL DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIMES FOR THIS SESSION: Tuesday, 10:00 a.m. Seattle (UTC -7) (noon in Dallas; 1:00 p.m. in Miami; 5:00 p.m. in London (as usual); 7:00 p.m. in Cape Town; 9:00 p.m. in New Delhi; midnight in Bangkok. For Sydney Australia, the session is at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday.) This session will be at 5pm London time, please confirm your local time against this.
Zoom link to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMvc-GurzIrHdJ37RKT3Ht1eWJV0XKGWbQz
March 28, 2022 DMM for Beginners. (It’s moved ahead one week from the usual first Tuesday of every month.)
April 5, 2022 Two-year anniversary celebration of DMM Coffee House. Share your favorite moments and feedback on how we can improve, and any comments on how else we might help the DMM.
Batinic, B., Duisin, D., & Barisic, J. (2013). Obsessive versus delusional jealousy. Psychiatria Danubina, 25(3), 0-339.
Crittenden, P. M., & Landini, A. (2011). Assessing adult attachment: A dynamic-maturational approach to discourse analysis. WW Norton & Company.
Duschinsky, R. (2020). Cornerstones of attachment research. Oxford University Press. (Available for purchase at Amazon.com. Free PDF available at: https://api.repository.cam.ac.uk/server/api/core/bitstreams/f0b3313f-0163-4f30-bfe6-c517829646ba/content
Marazziti, D., Consoli, G., Albanese, F., Laquidara, E., Baroni, S., & Dell’Osso, M. C. (2010). Romantic attachment and subtypes/dimensions of jealousy. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health: CP & EMH, 6, 53.
Rakovec-Felser Z. Domestic Violence and Abuse in Intimate Relationship from Public Health Perspective. Health Psychol Res. 2014 Oct 22;2(3):1821
Reutens S, Butler T, Hwang YIJ, Withall A. A comparison of older and younger offenders with delusional jealousy. Psychiatr Psychol Law. 2022 Jul 26;30(5):618-631.
Silva, J. Arturo, Ferrari, Michelle M., Leong, Gregory B, Penny, Gary (1998). The dangerousness of persons with delusional jealousy. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 26:4, 607-623.