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Attachment as a Mediator between Childhood Maltreatment and Adult Symptomatology

Abstract

This study examined the mediating role of attachment in the relationship between childhood maltreatment perpetrated by parents and adult symptomatology. Young adults (N = 803), with and without a history of abuse, were recruited from a local university to complete a series of questionnaires inquiring about past maltreatment experiences, adult attachment in current close relationships, and psychological symptomatology. While attachment was found to be a mediator for all three types of abuse when they were looked at individually, a more robust mediated effect was found in the case of psychological abuse. When all three types of parental maltreatment (psychological, physical, and exposure to family violence) were considered simultaneously, attachment mediated the relationship between only psychological abuse and symptomatology. Parallel meditated effects were observed across two measures of symptomatology: trauma-related symptomatology and externalizing and internalizing symptomatology. The results of this study further our understanding of psychological maltreatment and its intra-individual correlates.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In order to explore the possibility of a different order of effects in the relationships between maltreatment, attachment, and psychopathology, three alternate models were tested. The model fit indices for each of these models indicated that they did not fit the data as well as those presented in the main text of the current paper. The model fit statistics for these models is presented below:

    1. a)

      Attachment served as the predictor, the three types of abuse served as mediators, and the three types of psychopathology served as outcome variables \( \left[ {\chi_{{11}}^2 = {115}.{13}\left( {p = .000} \right),\;{\text{CFI}} = .{95},\;{\text{RMSEA}} = .{11},\;{\text{SRMR}} = .0{5}} \right]. \)

    2. b)

      Maltreatment served as the predictor, three types of psychopathology as the mediators, and attachment as the outcome \( \left[ {\chi_8^2 = {7}0{5}.{646}\;\left( {p = .000} \right),\;{\text{CFI}} = .{68},\;{\text{RMSEA}} = .{33},\;{\text{SRMR}} = .{15}} \right]. \)

    3. c)

      Attachment served as a moderator of the relationship between maltreatment and psychopathology \( \left[ {\chi_3^2 = {425}.{58}\;\left( {p = .000} \right),\;{\text{CFI}} = .{88},\;{\text{RMSEA}} = .{42},\;{\text{SRMR}} = .0{7}} \right]. \)

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The authors wish to acknowledge the generous support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant #410-98-1022 issued to the first author).

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Muller, R.T., Thornback, K. & Bedi, R. Attachment as a Mediator between Childhood Maltreatment and Adult Symptomatology. J Fam Viol 27, 243–255 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-012-9417-5

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Keywords

  • Psychological Abuse
  • Witnessing
  • Trauma
  • Maltreatment
  • Attachment
  • Symptomatology