Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 131-143

First online:

Attachment, Behavioral Inhibition, and Anxiety in Preschool Children

  • Galia Shamir-EssakowAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Macquarie University
  • , Judy A. UngererAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Macquarie UniversityDepartment of Psychology, Macquarie University Email author 
  • , Ronald M. RapeeAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Macquarie University

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This study examined the association between insecure attachment, behavioral inhibition, and anxiety in an at risk sample of preschool children. The relationship between maternal anxiety and child anxiety was also assessed. Participants were 104 children aged 3–4 years who were assessed for behavioral inhibition and mother–child attachment (using the Strange Situation procedure). DSM-IV criteria were used to assess childhood anxiety disorders. Insecure attachment and behavioral inhibition were both independently associated with child anxiety, even after controlling for the effect of maternal anxiety. Maternal anxiety was also associated with child anxiety. This study identified both constitutional and environmental factors associated with the expression of anxiety in young children. Furthermore, the highest levels of anxiety were shown by children who were behaviorally inhibited and insecurely attached and whose mothers were also anxious.


mother–child attachment behavioral inhibition childhood anxiety