Adult attachment styles: a comparison between psychologically maltreated and non-maltreated individuals using self-report and projective methods

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Holens, Pamela L.
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The recognition of psychological maltreatment as a distinct form of child maltreatment worthy of independent investigation occurred only as recently as the late 1970s. Today, there is a growing consensus among professionals that not only is psychological maltreatment far more prevalent than was once realized, but also that it lies at the core of all major forms of abuse and neglect. Furthermore, its impact has been judged by some to be more damaging than the effects of either physical or sexual abuse. The current study examined individuals who reported having experienced childhood psychological maltreatment in comparison to a control group who reported not having experienced any form of childhood maltreatment. The attachment styles of the maltreated and non-maltreated groups were compared with respect to a two-dimensional model of attachment. It was hypothesized that maltreated individuals would have less secure adult attachment relationships than their non-maltreated counterparts. Results indicated that individuals who reported childhood psychological maltreatment were indeed more likely than their non-maltreated counterparts to have developed a self-reported insecure attachment style in their adult relationships, characterized by higher levels of both attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety. A secondary goal of the study was to determine whether self-reports of the two attachment dimensions (anxiety and avoidance) were associated with theoretically coherent constellations of Rorschach projective responses. No evidence of associations between the projective responses and the self-report measure of these attachment dimensions was found in either the maltreated or the non-maltreated group, suggesting the need for further research in this area.
attachment, maltreatment, psychological, projective, abuse, verbal, emotional