International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction

, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 555-576

First online:

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

  • Jonathan A. WeissAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, York University Email author 
  • , Jennifer MacMullinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, York University
  • , Randall WaechterAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
  • , Christine WekerleAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
  • , The MAP Research Team

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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.


Maltreatment Intellectual disability Dating violence Attachment Adolescence