Attachment and the risk of mental health disorders during adolescence
More details
Hide details
Department of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Education, Sociology and Health Sciences, University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra, Poland
Submission date: 2014-12-19
Final revision date: 2015-08-01
Acceptance date: 2015-08-02
Online publication date: 2015-10-14
Publication date: 2015-10-14
Health Psychology Report 2016;4(1):8–15
Attachment is one of the more important developmental aspects for predicting a person’s level of adaptation and mental health. Previous research in this area suggests a relationship between insecure attachment and behavioural disorders, deviations as well as depression and other affective disorders. The goal of this study was to determine the relationships between adolescents’ attachment patterns and aggression as well as internalisation and externalisation of problems – expressed as a tendency to assume the role of the victim or the perpetrator. We hypothesised that insecure patterns of attachment foster both aggression (as a personality feature) and a tendency towards mental health issues, through increasing the frequency of entering the role of a victim or a perpetrator. participants and procedure
One hundred and twenty individuals aged 14-19 took part in the study, mainly high school and university students. The study was conducted in groups, with the consent of participants and their parents. The following methods were used to assess the variables: The Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA), the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ) and the Mini Direct and Indirect Aggression Inventory (Mini-DIA).

Our results suggest that a relationship exists between aggressiveness and trust in the relationship with one’s mother, as well as between hostility and alienation with regards to one’s mother and father. Insecure attachment is a significant risk factor for mental health disorders, and it fosters both externalisation and internalisation behaviours.

We interpret the results as suggesting that attachment organisation plays an important role in a wide array of aspects of adolescent psychosocial development.
Ackard, D. M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Perry, C. (2006). Parent-child connectedness and behavioral and emotional health among adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30, 59-66.
Allen, J. P. (2008). The attachment system in adolescence. In: J. Cassidy, & P. R. Shaver (eds.), Handbook of Attachment Second Edition: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications (pp. 419-435). New York, USA: The Guilford Press.
Allen, J. P., Hauser, S. T., Bell, K. L., & O’Connor, T. G. (1994). Longitudinal assessment of autonomy and relatedness in adolescent-family interactions as predictors of adolescent ego development and self-esteem. Child Development, 65, 179-194.
Allen, J., Hauser, S., O’Connor, T., Bell, K., & Eickholt, C. (1996). The connection of observed hostile family conflict to adolescents’ developing autonomy and relatedness with parents. Development and Psychopathology, 8, 425-442.
Allen, J. P., Moore, C. M., Kuperminc, G. P., & Bell, K. (1998). Attachment and adolescent psychosocial functioning. Child Development, 69, 1406-1419.
Allen, J. P., & Land, D. (1999). Attachment in adolescence. In: J. Cassidy, & P. R. Shaver (eds.), Handbook of attachment theory and research (pp. 319-335). New York: Guilford.
Allen, J. P., Porter, M., McFarland, C., McElhaney, K. B., & Marsh, P. (2007). The relation of attachment security to adolescents’ paternal and peer relationships, depression, and externalizing behavior. Child Development, 78, 1222-1259.
Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Juffer, F. (2003). Less is more: meta-analyses of sensitivity and attachment interventions in early childhood. Psychology Bulletin, 129, 195-215.
Bowen, M. (1978). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson.
Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base. Clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge.
Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. P. (1992). The aggression questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 452-459.
Cierpiałkowska, L. (2014). Emotional dysregulation and aggression among people with borderline personality disorders. Lecture given during the XXXVII CICA International Conference on Conflict and Aggression, Zielona Góra, 22-26 June.
Clarkin, J. F., & Posner, M. (2005). Defining the mechanisms of borderline personality disorder. Psychopathology, 38, 56-63.
Crick, N. R., Murray-Close, D., & Woods, K. (2005). Borderline personality features in childhood: A short-term longitudinal study. Development and Psychopathology, 17, 1051-1070.
Dodge, K. A., & Pettit, G. S. (2003). A biopsychosocial model of the development of chronic conduct problems in adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 39, 349-371.
Dubois-Comtois, K., Cyr, C., Pascuzzo, K., Lessard, M., & Poulin, C. (2013). Attachment theory in clinical work with adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescence Behavior, 1, 2-8.
Dubois-Comtois, K., Cyr, C., Pascuzzo, K., Lessard, M., & Poulin, C. (2013). Attachment theory in clinical work with adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Behaviour, 1, 111. DOI: 10.4172/jcalb.1000111.
Dwyer, K., Fredstrom, B., Rubin, K. H., Rose-Krasnor, L., Booth-LaForce, C. L., & Laursen, B. (2010). Attachment, social information processing, and friendship quality of early adolescent girls and boys. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27, 91-116.
Farnicka, M., & Grzegorzewska, I. (2014). Intrapersonal correlates of aggression in adolescents. Current Issues in Personality Psychology (in press).
Frączek, A. (ed.). (1979). Studia nad psychologicznymi mechanizmami czynności agresywnych [Studying psychological mechanisms of aggressive actions]. Warszawa: PAN.
Gamble, S. A., & Roberts, J. E. (2005). Adolescents’ perception of primary caregivers and cognitive style: the roles of attachment security and gender. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29, 123-141.
Greenberg, M. T., & Speltz, M. L. (1988). Attachment and the ontogeny of conduct problems. In: J. Belsky, & T. Nezworski (eds.), Clinical implications of attachment (pp. 177-218). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Grzegorzewska, I. (2011). Dorastanie w rodzinach z problemem alkoholowym [Growing up in families with alcohol problems]. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar.
Grzegorzewska, I. (2013). Odporność psychiczna dzieci alkoholików [Mental resiliency in children of alcoholics]. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar.
Grzegorzewska, I. (2014). Negatywne zdarzenia życiowe i radzenie sobie ze stresem a zdrowie psychiczne w okresie średniego dzieciństwa [Negative life events, dealing with stress, and mental health in mid-childhood]. Health Psychology Report (in press).
Hejmanowski, S. (1999). Tożsamość młodzieży w ponowoczesnym świecie [Youth identity in the post-modern world]. In: T. Rzepa (ed.), W poszukiwaniu tożsamości [On a search for identity] (pp. 39-51). Szczecin: Wyd. Naukowe Uniwersytetu Szczecińskiego.
Kendall, P. C. (2004). Zaburzenia okresu dzieciństwa i adolescencji [Disorders of childhood and adoescence]. Gdańsk: GWP.
Kobak, R. R., Sudler, N., & Gamble, W. (1991). Attachment and depressive symptoms during adolescence: A developmental pathways analysis. Development and Psychopathology, 3, 461-474.
Kobak, R., Zajac, K., & Smith, C. (2009). Preoccupied states of mind and trajectories of hostile-impulsive behavior: implications for the development of personality disorders. Developmental Psychopathology, 21, 839-851.
Larson, R. W., Richards, M. H., & Moneta, G. (1996). Changes in adolescents’ daily interactions with their families from ages 10 to 18: Disengagement and transformation. Developmental Psychology, 32, 744-754.
Liberska, H. (2007). Specyfika kształtowania się tożsamości współczesnej młodzieży. Z zagadnień psychologii rozwoju człowieka. Tom 1 [Characteristics of identity formation in modern youth. Discourses in human developmental psychology. Vol. 1] (pp. 143-158). Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe KUL.
Margolese, S. K., Markiewicz, D., & Doyle, A. B. (2005). Attachment to parents, best friend, and romantic partner: predicting different pathways to depression in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 637-650.
Marsh, P., McFarland, F. C., Allen, J. P., McElhaney, K. B., & Land, D. (2003). Attachment, autonomy, and multifinality in adolescent internalizing and risky behavioral symptoms. Developmental Psychopathology, 15, 451-467.
McGirr, A., Paris, J., Lesage, A., Renaud, J., & Turecki, G. (2007). Risk factors for suicide completion in borderline personality disorder: A case-control study of cluster B comorbidity and impulsive aggression. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68, 721-729.
Murray, C., & Greenberg, M. T. (2000). Children’s relationship with teachers and bonds with school an investigation of patterns and correlates in middle childhood. Journal of School Psychology, 38, 423-445.
Obuchowska, I. (1996). Drogi dorastania [The trajectories of developments]. Warszawa: WSiP.
Oleszkowicz, A. (1995). Kryzys młodzieńczy – istota i przebieg [The crisis of adolescence – its substance and course]. Wrocław: Wydawnictwo UWR.
Oleszkowicz, A. (2006). Bunt młodzieńczy. Uwarunkowania. Formy. Skutki [The adolescent rebel. Determinants. Forms. Consequences]. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar.
Österman, K., & Björkqvist, K. (1998). The mini direct indirect aggression inventory. Finland: Abo Akademii.
Patterson, G. R., De Baryshe, B. D., & Ramsey, E. (1989). A developmental perspective on antisocial behavior. American Psychologist, 44, 329-335.
Radziwiłłowicz, W., & Macias, M. (2014). Self-esteem and achievement motivation level in overweight and obese adolescents. Health Psychology Report, 2, 132-143.
Rosenblum, G. D., & Lewis, M. (2006). Emotional development in adolescence. In: G. R. Adams, M. D. Berzonsky (eds.), Blackwell Handbook of Adolescence (pp. 269-289). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Plopa, M. (2014). Więzi rodzinne i małżeńskie w perspektywie teorii przywiązania [Familial and marital bonds in the perspective of the Attachment theory]. In: I. Janicka, & H. Liberska (eds.), Psychologia rodziny [Family Psychology] (pp. 141-164). Warszawa: PWN.
Rosenstein, D. S., & Horowitz, H. A. (1996). Adolescent attachment and psychopathology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 244-253.
Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., & Shulman, S. (1993). Individuals in relationships: Development from infancy through adolescence. In: D. Funder, R. Parke, C. Tamlinson-Keasey, & K. Widaman (eds.), Studying lives through time (pp. 315-342). Washington: American Psychological Association.
Vivona, J. M. (2000). Parental attachment styles of late adolescents: Qualities of attachment relationships and consequences for adjustment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 316-329.
Weinfield, N. S., Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., & Carlson, E. A. (2008). Individual differences in infant-caregiver attachment: Conceptual and empirical aspects of security. In: J. Cassidy, P. R. Shaver (eds.), Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications (pp. 78-101). New York, USA: The Guilford Press.