, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 449-458
Date: 27 Sep 2011

Disorganized Attachment and Inhibitory Capacity: Predicting Externalizing Problem Behaviors

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The aim of the present study was to investigate whether attachment insecurity, focusing on disorganized attachment, and the executive function (EF) component of inhibition, assessed at age 5, were longitudinally related to general externalizing problem behaviors as well as to specific symptoms of ADHD and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and callous-unemotional (CU) traits. General externalizing problem behaviors were also measured at age 5 to allow for a developmental analysis. Outcome variables were rated by parents and teachers. The sample consisted of 65 children with an oversampling of children with high levels of externalizing behaviors. Attachment was evaluated using a story stem attachment doll play procedure. Inhibition was measured using four different tasks. The results showed that both disorganized attachment and poor inhibition were longitudinally related to all outcome variables. Controlling for initial level of externalizing problem behavior, poor inhibition predicted ADHD symptoms and externalizing problem behaviors, independent of disorganized attachment, whereas for ASD symptoms no predictive relations remained. Disorganized attachment independently predicted CU traits.

This research was supported by a grant from The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research to Gunilla Bohlin.
1Data for inhibition (although not using all four variables) in relation to ADHD symptoms have been reported by Brocki et al. (2007).