Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1123–1138 | Cite as

Attachment in Toddlers with Autism and Other Developmental Disorders

  • Fabiënne B. A. Naber
  • Sophie H. N. Swinkels
  • Jan K. Buitelaar
  • Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg
  • Marinus H. van IJzendoorn
  • Claudine Dietz
  • Emma van Daalen
  • Herman van Engeland
Original Paper


Attachment was assessed in toddlers with Autistic Disorder (n = 20), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (n = 14), Mental Retardation (n = 12), Language Development Disorder (n = 16), and a non-clinical comparison group (n = 18), using the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP). Children in the clinical groups were more often disorganized and less often securely attached. Severity of autism was associated with more attachment insecurity, and lower developmental level increased the chance for disorganized attachment. Attachment disorganization was related to increased heart rate during the SSP. Controlling for basal cortisol and developmental level, more autistic symptoms predicted lower cortisol responses to the SSP. The findings support the importance of disorganized attachment for children with autism.


Autistic disorder Cortisol Physiology Strange situation procedure 



This research was funded in part by the following grants: ZonMw Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Grant for Cure Autism Now, and The Korczak Foundation. Marinus van IJzendoorn is supported by the NWO/SPINOZA Prize of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, and Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg by a VIDI grant of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabiënne B. A. Naber
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sophie H. N. Swinkels
    • 3
  • Jan K. Buitelaar
    • 3
  • Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg
    • 1
  • Marinus H. van IJzendoorn
    • 1
  • Claudine Dietz
    • 2
  • Emma van Daalen
    • 2
  • Herman van Engeland
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Education and Child Studies, Centre for Child and Family StudiesUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Rudolph Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryRadboud University of NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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