The relationship between attachment styles and internalizing/externalizing problems: The mediating role of self-criticism
Many recent studies have explored the potential links between attachment style dimensions, personality vulnerability factors for psychopathology, and psychological and behavioral problems, particularly those along the internalizing and externalizing spectrum. However, previous studies have not examined these links within a structural equation model that can examine multiple predictors and outcomes, and therefore have not fully investigated the specificity of links between these factors. This cross-sectional study examined the mediating role of self-criticism in the relationship between attachment style dimensions and internalizing and externalizing problems. The sample included 420 nonclinical adolescents aged 14–20 years who were recruited in school settings and completed self-reported measures of attachment style dimensions (Attachment Style Questionnaire), self-criticism (Depressive Experiences Questionnaire), and internalizing and externalizing problems (Youth Self-Report). Structural equation modeling was used to test the proposed mediation model and to ascertain direct and indirect effects among study variables. Results shown that self-criticism mediated the link between both attachment avoidance and anxiety, and internalizing problems. Results were not moderated by gender. Results suggest that self-criticism is associated with psychopathology during adolescence, and accounts for the associations of attachment style dimensions with internalizing and externalizing problems.
KeywordsAdolescence Attachment style Personality vulnerability Psychopathology
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of Interest
None to declare by any author.
None to declare by any author.
- Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Integrative guide for the 1991 CBCL/4–18, YSR and TRF profiles. Burlington: Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont.Google Scholar
- Blatt, S. J. (2008). Polarities of experience: Relatedness and self definition in personality development, psychopathology, and the therapeutic process. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Blatt, S. J., & Blass, R. B. (1996). Relatedness and self definition: A dialectic model of personality development. In G. G. Noam & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Development and vulnerabilities in close relationships (pp. 309–338). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and Loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books (Original work published 1969).Google Scholar
- Brennan, K. A., Clark, C. L., & Shaver, P. R. (1998). Self-report measurement of adult attachment: An integrative overview. In J. A. Simpson & W. S. Rholes (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 46–76). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Brenning, K., Soenens, B., Braet, C., & Beyers, W. (2013). Longitudinal dynamics of depressogenic personality and attachment dimensions in adolescence: An examination of association with changes in depressive symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 1128–1144. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9879-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
- Byrne, B. M. (1998). Structural equation modeling with lisrel, prelis and simplis: Basic concepts, applications and programming. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- de Vries, S. L. A., Hoeve, M., Stams, G. J. J. M., & Asscher, J. J. (2015). Adolescent-parent attachment and externalizing behavior: The mediating role of individual and social factors. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44, 283–294. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-015-9999-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Falgares, G., Marchetti, D., De Santis, S., Carrozzino, D., Fulcheri, M., Kopala-Sibley, D. C., & Verrocchio, M. C. (2017). Attachment styles and sucide-related behaviors in adolescence: The mediating role of self-criticism and dependency. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 8, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fearon, R. P., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Lapsley, A. M., & Roisman, G. I. (2010). The significance of insecure attachment and disorganization in the development of children’s externalizing behavior: A meta-analytic study. Child Development, 81, 435–456. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01405.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Feeney, J., Noller, P., & Hanrahan, M. (1994). Assessing adult attachment. In M. B. Sperling & W. H. Berman (Eds.), Attachment in adults: Clinical and developmental perspectives. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Fossati, A., Feeney, J. A., Donati, D., Donini, M., Novella, L., Bagnato, M., Acquarini, E., & Maffei, C. (2003). On the dimensionality of the attachment style questionnaire in italian clinical and non clinical participants. Journal of Social and Personal Relationship, 20, 55–79. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407503020001187.Google Scholar
- Kopala-Sibley, D. C., Zuroff, D. C., Hankin, B., & Abela, J. R. Z. (2015a). The development of self-criticism and dependency in early adolescence and their relationship to internalizing symptoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41, 1094–1109. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167215590985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kopala-Sibley, D. C., Zuroff, D. C., Hermanto, N., & Joyal-Desmarais, K. M. (2015b). The development of self-definition and relatedness in emerging adulthood and their role in the development of depressive symptoms. Advance online publication. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 40, 302–312. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025415573640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kopala-Sibley, D. C., Klein, D. N., Perlman, G., & Kotov, R. (2017). Self-criticism and dependency in female adolescents: Prediction of first onsets and disentangling the relationships between personality, stressful life events, and internalizing psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126, 1029–1043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kramer, M. D., Krueger, R. F., & Hicks, B. M. (2008). The role of internalizing and externalizing liability factors in accounting for gender differences in the prevalence of common psychopathological syndromes. Psychological Medicine, 38(1), 51–61. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291707001572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Muris, P., Meesters, C., & van den Berg, S. (2003). Internalizing and externalizing problems as correlates of self-reported attachment style and perceived parental rearing in normal adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 12, 171–183. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022858715598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Neves Nunes, S. A., Faraco, A. M. X., Vieira, M. L., & Rubin, K. H. (2013). Externalizing and internalizing problems: Contributions of attachment and parental practices. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 26(3), 617–625.Google Scholar
- Pastorelli, C., Gerbino, M., Vecchio, G. M., Steca, P., Picconi, L., & Paciello, M. (2002). School failure: Risk and protective factors during preadolescence. Età Evolutiva, 71, 84–91.Google Scholar
- Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in simple and multiple mediator models. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
- Spriggs, M. (2010). Understanding consent in research involving children: The ethical issues. Parkville: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.Google Scholar
- Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2007). Using multivariate statistics (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education Inc..Google Scholar
- Tambelli, R., Laghi, F., Odorisio, F., & Notari, V. (2012). Attachment relationships and internalizing and externalizing problemsamong Italian adolescents: Age and gender differences. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(8), 1465–1471. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.04.004.
- Willett, J. B., Singer, J. B., & Martin, N. C. (1998). The design and analysis of longitudinal studies of development and psychopathology in context: Statistical models and methodological recommendations. Development and Psychopathology, 10, 395–426. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579498001667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar