The Significance of Insecure Attachment and Disorganization in the Development of Children’s Externalizing Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Study

School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, 3 Earley Gate, Whiteknights, Reading RD6 6AL, United Kingdom.
Child Development (Impact Factor: 4.92). 03/2010; 81(2):435-56. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01405.x
Source: PubMed


This study addresses the extent to which insecure and disorganized attachments increase risk for externalizing problems using meta-analysis. From 69 samples (N = 5,947), the association between insecurity and externalizing problems was significant, d = 0.31 (95% CI: 0.23, 0.40). Larger effects were found for boys (d = 0.35), clinical samples (d = 0.49), and from observation-based outcome assessments (d = 0.58). Larger effects were found for attachment assessments other than the Strange Situation. Overall, disorganized children appeared at elevated risk (d = 0.34, 95% CI: 0.18, 0.50), with weaker effects for avoidance (d = 0.12, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.21) and resistance (d = 0.11, 95% CI: -0.04, 0.26). The results are discussed in terms of the potential significance of attachment for mental health.

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    • "Males and females are differentially susceptible to various forms of psychopathology (Zahn-Waxler, Shirtcliff, & Marceau, 2008). Gender is also a significant moderator of the association between attachment and behavior problems, with meta-analytic evidence from behavioral measures of attachment suggesting that insecurity in boys is an important correlate of internalizing and externalizing outcomes (Fearon et al., 2010; Madigan et al., 2013). Thus, child gender will also be examined as a potential moderator in the current study. "
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    ABSTRACT: Although the quality of the attachment relationship is often cited as an important determinant of development, the extent of impact of this environmental influence in shaping behavioral outcomes has been a matter of considerable debate. This may, in part, be because of the variability in methodologies used for assessing attachment across infancy, childhood, and adolescence, including behavioral, representational, and questionnaire measures of attachment. Previous meta-analyses of the relations between attachment and internalizing and externalizing problems have focused on the behavioral measures of attachment used primarily in infancy. The current meta-analysis is a comprehensive examination of the literature on attachment and behavioral problems in children aged 3-18 years, focusing on the representational and questionnaire measures most commonly used in this age range. When secure attachment was compared with insecure attachment, modest associations with internalizing behavior (165 studies; 48,224 families; d = .58; 95% confidence interval [CI] [.52-.64]) were found. Multivariate moderator analyses were used to disentangle the unique influence of each significant univariate moderator more precisely, and results revealed that effect sizes decreased as the child aged, and were larger in studies in which the participants were ethnically White, where the child was the problem informant, and when the internalizing measure was depressive symptoms. Attachment and externalizing behavior were also associated (116 studies; 24,689 families; d = .49; 95% CI [42-.56]), and effect sizes were larger in ethnically White samples, and in those where the child was the problem informant. Avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized attachment classifications were associated with internalizing behavior, but only disorganized attachment was associated with externalizing behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Psychological Bulletin
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    • "A large body of evidence shows that the quality of infant-caregiver interactions (sensitivity and responsiveness of the caregiver) during the first few months has an important influence on the quality of the attachment relationship (De Wolff and Van IJzendoorn 1997; Bakermans-Kranenburg et al. 2003). In turn, early attachment security has a significant impact on self-and emotion-regulation skills later in life (Sroufe et al. 2005; Fearon et al. 2010; Groh et al. 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Infants have been shown to possess remarkable competencies in social understanding. Little is known, however, about the interplay between the quality of infants’ social-emotional experiences with their caregivers and social-cognitive processes in infancy. Using eye-tracking we investigated the relation of infant attachment quality and maternal sensitivity with 12-month-old infants’ monitoring patterns during the observation of abstractly depicted interactions of a “parent” and a “baby” figure. We found that secure infants focused their attention on the “parent” figure relative to the “baby” figure more than insecure infants when the two figures got separated. Infants with more sensitive mothers focused their attention more on the ongoing behavior of the “parent” figure after the separation than infants with less sensitive mothers when distress of the “baby” figure was implied by accompanying baby crying sounds. Our findings support the notion that early social-emotional experiences with the caregiver are related to social information processing and that these social information processing patterns might be markers of infants’ developing internal working models of attachment.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Brain and Behavior
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    • "Bates and Dozier (2002) found proportions of attachment states of mind comparable to that in the general population, although there was a trend showing fewer secure-autonomous and preoccupied foster mothers, and more dismissing and unresolved foster mothers. When children are placed with insecure foster mothers, they are more likely to show disorganized attachment behaviors (Dozier, Stoval, Albus, & Bates, 2001) – a form of attachment that is a significant risk factor for child maladjustment in the short-and long-term (Fearon et al., 2010; Groh et al., 2012). In line with these results, a recent study showed that foster caregivers' insecure states of mind were associated with increased atypical parenting while interacting with the foster child (Ballen et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated different environmental and contextual factors associated with maltreated children's adjustment in foster care. Participants included 83 children (52 boys), ages 1-7 years, and their foster caregivers. Quality of interaction with the foster caregiver was assessed from direct observation of a free-play situation; foster caregiver attachment state of mind and commitment toward the child were assessed using two interviews; disruptive behavior symptoms were reported by foster caregivers. Results showed that quality of interaction between foster caregivers and children were associated with behavior problems, such that higher-quality interactions were related to fewer externalizing and internalizing problems. Foster caregivers' state of mind and commitment were interrelated but not directly associated with behavior problems of foster children. Type of placement moderated the association between foster caregiver commitment and foster child behavior problems. Whereas greater foster caregiver commitment was associated with higher levels of adjustment for children in foster families (kin and non-kin), this was not the case in foster-to-adopt families. Finally, the associations between foster child behavior problems and history of maltreatment and placement related-risk conditions fell below significance after considering child age and quality of interaction with the foster caregiver. Findings underscore the crucial contribution of the foster caregiver-child relationship to fostering child adjustment and, thereby, have important implications for clinical services offered to this population. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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