Differential Pathways from Child Maltreatment Types to Insecure Adult Attachment Styles via Psychological and Social Resources: A Bayesian Network Analysis

Jan Höltge, Shauna L. Rohner, Eva M. Heim, Urs Nater, Myriam V. Thoma

Child maltreatment has been linked to insecure adult attachment. However, it is not yet clear how different child maltreatment types are associated with attachment-related anxiety and avoidance in adulthood; and whether resilience against these insecure attachment styles is dependent on risk-specific resources. Therefore, this study explored differential pathways from child maltreatment types to attachment-related anxiety and avoidance in adulthood and examined whether psychological resources (self-esteem) and social resources (perceived social support) show risk-specific effects. An online survey retrospectively assessed experiences of child maltreatment, the level of attachment-related anxiety and avoidance in adulthood, self-esteem, and perceived social support in N = 604 former members of fundamentalist Christian faith communities (mean age = 41.27 years, SD = 12.50; 65.90% female). Cross-sectional data was analyzed using Bayesian network analysis. Only emotional child maltreatment showed direct relationships to insecure adult attachment. Specifically, emotional abuse and emotional neglect were associated with anxious and avoidant adult attachment, respectively. The effects of other child abuse types on adult attachment were mediated through emotional abuse, which indicated patterns of complex traumatization. Self-esteem mediated the effect of emotional abuse on anxious attachment, while perceived social support mediated the effect of emotional neglect on avoidant attachment. Social support was also linked to self-esteem and was therefore also important for individuals with experiences of emotional abuse. This study showed that child maltreatment types and their interactions are meaningfully linked to attachment-related anxiety and avoidance in adulthood. Interventions for survivors of child maltreatment should focus on risk-specific resources to support their resilience.

Forschungsplattform The Stress of Life - Processes and Mechanisms underlying Everyday Life Stress, Institut für Klinische und Gesundheitspsychologie
Externe Organisation(en)
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dalhousie University, Universität Zürich (UZH), Université de Lausanne
Journal of Interpersonal Violence
ÖFOS 2012
501010 Klinische Psychologie
Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung
SDG 3 – Gesundheit und Wohlergehen, SDG 16 – Frieden, Gerechtigkeit und starke Institutionen
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