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Disorganized Attachment Representations, Externalizing Behavior Problems, and Socio-Emotional Competences
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. Uppsala University, department of psychology.
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Disorganized attachment is a risk-factor for developmental maladaptation in the form of externalizing behavior problems, and for poor development of competences important for socio-emotional functioning. Concerns have however been raised regarding theoretical overextension, and there is consequently a need for multifactorial studies that examine which outcomes disorganized attachment is reliably important for. There is also a lack of research on the mechanisms that mediate the relation between disorganized attachment and externalizing problems. The present thesis therefore examined whether disorganized attachment is a specific risk-factor for symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or a non-specific risk factor for both types of problems. Several emotional and cognitive competences were investigated as mediators, with the question of whether disorganized attachment becomes associated with externalizing problems primarily through any specific mechanism, or through multiple mechanisms. Three studies were conducted. Children completed the separation anxiety test for attachment representations and laboratory tasks for distinct competences, and parents and teachers rated emotion regulation and ODD- and ADHD-symptoms. Study I was cross-sectional and found that disorganized attachment contributed specifically to conduct problems when accounting for ADHD-symptoms. However, disorganized attachment did not contribute to ADHD-symptoms when accounting for conduct problems. Study II found that children with disorganized attachment representations show deviations in identification of emotional expressions, in the form of a generally diminished ability to discriminate between expressions rather than in response biases. Study III was (short-term) longitudinal and replicated the results from Study I; disorganized attachment was primarily associated with ODD-symptoms, not ADHD-symptoms. Elevated emotional reactivity and poor regulation, particularly for anger and fear, mediated the relation between disorganized attachment and ODD-symptoms. Taken together, the present findings suggest that disorganized attachment may constitute a specific risk factor for externalizing problems pertaining to anger and aggression, such as oppositionality and misconduct, rather than ADHD-problems. Importantly, the findings caution against ideas of a pathway from disorganized attachment to ADHD-symptoms. The deviations in processing and regulation of anger and fear corroborate Bowlby´s proposal that these emotions are closely connected, central to disorganization, and a potential mediating mechanism in relation to externalizing problems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2018. , p. 91
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 160
Keywords [en]
Disorganized Attachment, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Emotion Regulation, Self-Regulation
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-361363ISBN: 978-91-513-0452-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-361363DiVA, id: diva2:1250329
Public defence
2018-11-09, Betty Pettersson, Blåsenhus, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-10-18 Created: 2018-09-24 Last updated: 2018-11-19
List of papers
1. The Heterogeneity of ADHD Symptoms and Conduct Problems: Cognitive Inhibition, Emotion Regulation, Emotionality and Disorganized Attachment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Heterogeneity of ADHD Symptoms and Conduct Problems: Cognitive Inhibition, Emotion Regulation, Emotionality and Disorganized Attachment
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2016 (English)In: British Journal of Developmental Psychology, ISSN 0261-510X, E-ISSN 2044-835X, Vol. 34, no 3, p. 371-387Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study examined the contributions of several important domains of functioning to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and conduct problems. Specifically, we investigated whether cognitive inhibition, emotion regulation, emotionality, and disorganized attachment made independent and specific contributions to these externalizing behaviour problems from a multiple pathways perspective. The study included laboratory measures of cognitive inhibition and disorganized attachment in 184 typically developing children (M age = 6 years, 10 months, SD = 1.7). Parental ratings provided measures of emotion regulation, emotionality, and externalizing behaviour problems. Results revealed that cognitive inhibition, regulation of positive emotion, and positive emotionality were independently and specifically related to ADHD symptoms. Disorganized attachment and negative emotionality formed independent and specific relations to conduct problems. Our findings support the multiple pathways perspective on ADHD, with poor regulation of positive emotion and high positive emotionality making distinct contributions to ADHD symptoms. More specifically, our results support the proposal of a temperamentally based pathway to ADHD symptoms. The findings also indicate that disorganized attachment and negative emotionality constitute pathways specific to conduct problems rather than to ADHD symptoms.

Keywords
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cognitive inhibition, conduct problems, disorganized attachment, emotion regulation, emotionality
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-283742 (URN)10.1111/bjdp.12136 (DOI)000380721800005 ()26895773 (PubMedID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 412-2008-2401
Available from: 2016-04-14 Created: 2016-04-14 Last updated: 2018-09-24Bibliographically approved
2. Diminished ability to identify facial emotional expressions in children with disorganized attachment representations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diminished ability to identify facial emotional expressions in children with disorganized attachment representations
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2017 (English)In: Developmental Science, ISSN 1363-755X, E-ISSN 1467-7687, Vol. 20, no 6, article id e12465Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The development of children's ability to identify facial emotional expressions has long been suggested to be experience dependent, with parental caregiving as an important influencing factor. This study attempts to further this knowledge by examining disorganization of the attachment system as a potential psychological mechanism behind aberrant caregiving experiences and deviations in the ability to identify facial emotional expressions. Typically developing children (= 105, 49.5% boys) aged 6–7 years (= 6 years 8 months, SD = 1.8 months) completed an attachment representation task and an emotion identification task, and parents rated children's negative emotionality. The results showed a generally diminished ability in disorganized children to identify facial emotional expressions, but no response biases. Disorganized attachment was also related to higher levels of negative emotionality, but discrimination of emotional expressions did not moderate or mediate this relation. Our novel findings relate disorganized attachment to deviations in emotion identification, and therefore suggest that disorganization of the attachment system may constitute a psychological mechanism linking aberrant caregiving experiences to deviations in children's ability to identify facial emotional expressions. Our findings further suggest that deviations in emotion identification in disorganized children, in the absence of maltreatment, may manifest in a generally diminished ability to identify emotional expressions, rather than in specific response biases.

National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-310371 (URN)10.1111/desc.12465 (DOI)000413901000011 ()27966280 (PubMedID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 412-2012-1222
Available from: 2016-12-14 Created: 2016-12-14 Last updated: 2019-02-26Bibliographically approved
3. Disorganized Attachment, Externalizing Behavior Problems, and Socioemotional Competences in early School-Age
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Disorganized Attachment, Externalizing Behavior Problems, and Socioemotional Competences in early School-Age
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala:
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-361362 (URN)
Available from: 2018-09-24 Created: 2018-09-24 Last updated: 2018-09-24

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