Adult attachment styles and the psychological response to infant bereavement
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AbstractBackground: Based on Bowlby's attachment theory, Bartholomew proposed a four-category attachment typology by which individuals judged themselves and adult relationships. This explanatory model has since been used to help explain the risk of psychiatric comorbidity. Objective: The current study aimed to identify attachment typologies based on Bartholomew's attachment styles in a sample of bereaved parents on dimensions of closeness/dependency and anxiety. In addition, it sought to assess the relationship between the resultant attachment typology with a range of psychological trauma variables. Method: The current study was based on a sample of 445 bereaved parents who had experienced either peri- or post-natal death of an infant. Adult attachment was assessed using the Revised Adult Attachment Scale (RAAS) while reaction to trauma was assessed using the Trauma Symptom Checklist (TSC). A latent profile analysis was conducted on scores from the RAAS closeness/dependency and anxiety subscales to ascertain if there were underlying homogeneous attachment classes. Emergent classes were used to determine if these were significantly different in terms of mean scores on TSC scales. Results: A four-class solution was considered the optimal based on fit statistics and interpretability of the results. Classes were labelled “Fearful,” “Preoccupied,” “Dismissing,” and “Secure.” Females were almost eight times more likely than males to be members of the fearful attachment class. This class evidenced the highest scores across all TSC scales while the secure class showed the lowest scores. Conclusions: The results are consistent with Bartholomew's four-category attachment styles with classes representing secure, fearful, preoccupied, and dismissing types. While the loss of an infant is a devastating experience for any parent, securely attached individuals showed the lowest levels of psychopathology compared to fearful, preoccupied, or dismissing attachment styles. This may suggest that a secure attachment style is protective against trauma-related psychological distress.
CitationShevlin, M., Boyda, D., Elklit, A. and Murphy, S. (2014) 'Adult attachment styles and the psychological response to infant bereavement', European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5 (1) doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v5.23295
PublisherTaylor & Francis
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
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