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January 20, 2022
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The VASQ

Last updated on November 9, 2022

The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ) is a self-report tool to assess adult attachment style in relation to depression.

Basic information
Statements: 22
Duration: 5–10 minutes
Type: self-report tool
Authors: Antonia Bifulco et al.
Publishing year: 2003
Seminal paper: The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

Take the test here:


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht’s rating: 5 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 3 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 4 stars for testing accuracy.Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht’s rating: 5 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 3 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 4 stars for testing accuracy.

What it tests

This VASQ gives a measure of vulnerable attachment style, with the main purpose to predict psychopathology—which has long been a concern of attachment theory[1]The making and breaking of affectional bonds: I. Aetiology and psychopathology in the light of attachment theory (Bowlby, 1977)—in the form of major depression.[2]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

The VASQ measures attachment insecurity based on two factors:[3]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

  • Insecurity — A range of feelings and attitudes relating to discomfort with—or barriers to—closeness with others, including inability to trust, and hurt or anger at being let down.
  • Proximity-seeking — Other-dependence or approach behavior (e.g. missing the company of others when alone, becoming anxious when significant others are away).

It seems that these two factors in some way relate to what the research literature on attachment generally describes as avoidant traits (lack of proximity-seeking) and anxious traits (insecurity), although it seems that the insecurity factor is also associated with avoidance.

Both the total VASQ score and the insecurity score were related to disorder, to poor support, and to the interview assessment of marked insecurity.[4]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)


Taking the test

The VASQ consists of 22 statements, giving you 5 choices for each statement:[5]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Unsure
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly Agree

The 22 statements relate to 2 factors of attachment insecurity:[6]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

  • 12 statements (scale 1: insecurity)
  • 10 statements (scale 2: proximity-seeking)

Scoring

  • Scoring range: 22–110
  • Total VASQ score: 57↑
    • Factor 1: insecurity: 30↑
    • Factor 2: proximity-seeking: 27↑
  • All items are scored 1–5, with higher scores reflecting greater attachment insecurity.
VASQ thresholds
 Total VASQ scoreInsecurityProximity-seeking
Scoring range22–11012–6010–50
High score57↑30↑27↑
Low score56↓29↓26↓

Any scores above the threshold values are considered high/significant, while all scores below these values are considered low. But to be more specific, the table below shows what high or low scores on either of the subscales mean.[7]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

VASQ subscales meaning
 Factor 1
Insecurity
Factor 2
Proximity-seeking
High scoreBlockages to intimacy and closeness or intimacy constraints due to fearfulness (of being hurt or let down) and hostility (feeling people are against you, and anger that others have not done enough for you).‘Approach’ behavior; displaying a need for company, and anxiety about separation.
Low scoreGood support across a range of relationships, secure attitudes to attachment.Greater distance in relating to others.

Associations

The table below shows the constructs that the VASQ and its subscales are associated with.

VASQ associations
Associated tests/constructsTotal VASQ score associationsFactor 1: Insecurity associationsFactor 2: Proximity-seeking associations
Attachment Style Interview (ASI)‘Angry–dismissive’, ‘Fearful’ categories‘Enmeshed’ category (and negatively associated with the ‘Dismissive’ category)
Relationships Questionnaire (RQ)‘Preoccupied’ category
MiscellaneousPoor support, depressive disorderPoor support, depressive disorder

And in the table below, you can find more information on what those associated attachment styles/categories mean.

Attachment style categories
Attachment styleTestDescriptionTypical quotation
EnmeshedAttachment Style Interview (ASI)Poor support, high dependency needs, and are unable to function well alone (low Self-Reliance). They desire attention and company of others (high Desire for Company), and are unable to cope with even brief separations (high Fear of Separation).[8]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)“I’m not good on my own. I can’t bear being on my own. The thought of being alone and single again is petrifying. I can’t make decisions on my own and I need other people around me all the time.”[9]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)
FearfulAttachment Style Interview (ASI)Poor support, and a ‘harm–avoidance’ strategy in relation to others, involving high Mistrust, Constraints on Closeness, and a fear of being let down (high Fear of Rejection).[10]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)“I’m afraid of being let down. I get anxious about people I’ve known only a short time in case they reject me. It’s hard to get close to others because I don’t feel as good as them. I don’t know how much to trust.”[11]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)
Angry–dismissiveAttachment Style Interview (ASI)Poor support, and high in Mistrust and Constraints on Closeness. They are highly Self-Reliant and hostile (high Anger).[12]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)“I’m very disillusioned about people. I don’t trust them; they are out for themselves. Once someone hurts me, I cut them dead. I can be a loner. I like to think I’ve got control over my life most of the time. I get angry with my husband and feel at times that I hate him. At times I hate everyone.”[13]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)
WithdrawnAttachment Style Interview (ASI)Difficulty getting close to others (high Constraints on Closeness), overly Self-Reliant, but without the fear or anger of other styles.[14]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)“I don’t trust people with everything. I think real closeness and intimacy are things that I experience with very few people. I don’t actually get close to a lot of the people I know. Privacy is important to me. I feel I want to live alone now and cope by myself.”[15]The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): A Support-Based Adult Assessment Tool for Adoption and Fostering Practice (Bifulco et al., 2008)
SecureRelationships Questionnaire (RQ)Comfortable with intimacy and autonomy. Their model of others and the self are positive.[16]
Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four-category model (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991)
PreoccupiedRelationships Questionnaire (RQ)Preoccupied with relationships. Their model of others is positive, while their model of self is negative.[17]
Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four-category model (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991)
Dismissing–avoidantRelationships Questionnaire (RQ)Dismissing of intimacy. Highly self-reliant and independent. Their model of others is negative, while their model of self is positive.[18]
Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four-category model (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991)
FearfulRelationships Questionnaire (RQ)Fearful of intimacy. Socially avoidant. Their model of others and the self are negative.[19]
Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four-category model (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991)

High & lower scorers

So what did people with different attachments actually score? In the table below, you can see that those with a Fearful or Angry–dismissive attachment were most likely to score high on the insecurity scale, while those with an Enmeshed attachment were more likely to score high on the proximity-seeking scale.

VASQ high & low scorers
VASQFearfulAngry–dismissiveEnmeshedSecure
Insecurity (High >30)74%84%53%23%
Insecurity (Low <29)26%16%47%76%
Proximity-seeking (High >27)51%50%76%49%
Proximity-seeking (Low <26)49%50%24%51%
Total score (High >57)70%63%65%26%
Total score (Low <56)30%37%35%74%

Noteworthy is that almost half (49%) of people with a secure attachment nevertheless score high on the proximity-seeking scale. This seems to suggest that the insecurity scale is more so associated with negative factors than the proximity-seeking scale.


Validity

How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?

The VASQ has been shown to have good reliability and validity in discriminating those with insecure and proximity-seeking styles.[20]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

In the table below, you can see the reliability of the subscales. The correlation for the total score at retest was 0.65.[21]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)

VASQ subscales reliability
SubscaleCronbach’s alphaTest–retest reliability
Insecurity0.820.73
Proximity-seeking0.670.65

The criterion validity of the VASQ was also examined in relation to major depression. High VASQ insecurity scores and total scores were associated with higher rates of depression in the 12 months before contact, but the proximity-seeking scale was not significantly associated with depression.[22]The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder (Bifulco et al., 2003)


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing to the title ‘Discussion’.

Discussion

Martin Silvertant:

I think the scoring structure is a bit strange. For instance, if I choose ‘Strongly Disagree’, should this not be rated as 0 rather than 1 on an attachment vulnerability test? But more puzzling I find that ‘Unsure’ counts as 3. If I don’t know the answer, this not should automatically count towards ‘some’ attachment vulnerability. So, especially if you are autistic with alexithymia—which is a high likelihood if you suspect you may have an insecure attachment—I would advise you to try to think hard as to whether you agree with the statements or not, rather than selecting ‘Unsure’; because if the answer might be ‘Disagree’, that would likely give a better measure of your attachment vulnerability than going for the supposedly agnostic option.

Having said that, if you neither agree nor disagree with a statement, then do go for the ‘Unsure’ option, even if you are technically sure that you feel neutral about the statement. Just remember that in terms of how this test is scored, there isn’t really a ‘neutral’ option; everything is scored towards vulnerable attachment, only varying in degrees.

My pedantry about the scoring aside, the output of the test does make sense to me; I scored 38 on the insecurity scale and 18 on the proximity-seeking scale, with a total VASQ score of 53. This basically confirms what I had already thought about myself; that I have some attachment insecurities, but in general I am pretty secure, which is confirmed by my sub-threshold total score which is 4 points short of being considered significant. My proximity-seeking score is actually slightly higher than I would have expected, but only scores above 27 are considered significant, so I guess I’m just confused the score isn’t closer to 0. That’s largely due to the scoring issue I mentioned above. I do score above the threshold of 30 on the insecurity subscale, which also makes a lot of sense to me, as I definitely have some insecurities to work through, and shame that comes up in certain interactions with others.


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing at a psychometric test.

The VASQ

Please read each statement below and choose the answer that best fits your experiences. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers.

1. I take my time getting to know people.
2. I rely on others to help me make decisions.
3. People let me down a lot.
4. I miss the company of others when I am alone.
5. It’s best not to get too emotionally close to other people.
6. I worry a lot if people I live with arrive back later than expected.
7. I usually rely on advice from others when I’ve got a problem.
8. I feel uncomfortable when people get too close to me.
9. People close to me often get on my nerves.
10. I feel people are against me.
11. I worry about things happening to close family and friends.
12. I often get into arguments.
13. I am clingy with others.
14. I look forward to spending time on my own.
15. I like making decisions on my own.
16. I get anxious when people close to me are away.
17. I feel uneasy when others confide in me.
18. I find it hard to trust others.
19. Having people around me can be a nuisance.
20. I feel people haven’t done enough for me.
21. It’s important to have people around me.
22. I find it difficult to confide in people.


Subscales

In the table below, you can see which statements belong to which subscale.

VASQ subscales
StatementFactor 1
Insecure

Factor 2
Proximity-seeking
1. I take my time getting to know people.
2. I rely on others to help me make decisions.
3. People let me down a lot.
4. I miss the company of others when I am alone.
5. It’s best not to get too emotionally close to other people.
6. I worry a lot if people I live with arrive back later than expected.
7. I usually rely on advice from others when I’ve got a problem.
8. I feel uncomfortable when people get too close to me.
9. People close to me often get on my nerves.
10. I feel people are against me.
11. I worry about things happening to close family and friends.
12. I often get into arguments.
13. I am clingy with others.
14. I look forward to spending time on my own.
15. I like making decisions on my own.
16. I get anxious when people close to me are away.
17. I feel uneasy when others confide in me.
18. I find it hard to trust others.
19. Having people around me can be a nuisance.
20. I feel people haven’t done enough for me.
21. It’s important to have people around me.
22. I find it difficult to confide in people.

Recommended next steps

After the VASQ, consider taking one of the tests below.

CAT-Q

Measures camouflaging, and can account
for lower scores on other autism tests

VIA

Provides a rank order of your
strengths and virtues

EDA-QA

Measures traits and behaviors related to
Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)


An illustration of a clipboard with a checklist or assessment.

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht can offer help!
You can find more information here:

Autism assessments

References

This article
was written by:
dr-engelbrecht-and-martin-silvertant
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht ND RP is a dually licensed registered psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor, and a Canadian leader in trauma and PTSD, and she happens to be autistic; she got diagnosed at 48. Martin Silvertant is living up to his surname as a silver award-winning graphic designer. He also loves researching autism, astronomy, and typography. He was diagnosed with autism at 25.

Disclaimer

Although our content is generally well-researched
and substantiated, or based on personal experience,
note that it does not constitute medical advice.

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