Date: 14 Apr 2011

Child Maltreatment, Adolescent Attachment Style, and Dating Violence: Considerations in Youths with Borderline-to-Mild Intellectual Disability

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Abstract

One of the most salient developmental tasks of adolescence is the entry into romantic relationship, which often involves developing attachments to partners. Adolescents with a history of maltreatment have been found to be at greater risk of insecure attachments to romantic partners than non-maltreated adolescents, and the interaction of maltreatment and insecure attachment style has been linked to dating violence. The current study examined attachment styles and dating violence in child welfare-involved adolescents with borderline-to-mild intellectual disability (n = 40) and with average IQ (n = 116). Despite reporting similar experiences of childhood maltreatment, IQ was found to interact with avoidant attachment style to predict the degree of dating violence victimization and perpetration experienced by youth. It is suggested that an avoidant attachment style is a risk factor for all maltreated youth, and holds a particularly strong effect on youth with lower IQ levels. These findings highlight the need for developmentally appropriate attachment and dating violence interventions for maltreated youth.

MAP Longitudinal Study Principal Investigator: Christine Wekerle; Co-investigators and collaborators include (in alphabetical order): Michael Boyle, McMaster University; Deborah Goodman, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto; Bruce Leslie, Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto; Eman Leung, St. Michael’s Hospital; Harriet MacMillan, McMaster University; Brenda Moody, Peel Children’s Aid Society; Lil Tonmyr, Public Health Agency of Canada; Nico Trocmé, McGill University; Randall Waechter, McMaster University; Anne-Marie Wall, York University (deceased); Abby Goldstein, OISE/University of Toronto; Jonathan Weiss, York University.
We thank the youth participants, MAP advisory board members, community agencies, and the MAP research support staff, especially Ronald Chung. Acknowledgement of MAP Longitudinal Study funding extends to: (1) Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR; #VGH63212; #74547), Institute of Gender and Health (IGH), (2) the Provincial Centre of Excellence in Child and Youth Mental Health at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (#341), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Centre of Excellence in Child Welfare, and (3) the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services (#124). This work was supported, in part, by a mid-career award from CIHR IGH and the Ontario Women’s Health Council (#100079), and an Interchange Canada Assignment to the Public Health Agency of Canada to Dr. Wekerle. Dr. Weiss’ work was supported by a New Investigator Fellowship from the Ontario Mental Health Foundation.