The relationship between attachment and posttraumatic stress in children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review

Toby Cushing, Sarah Robertson, Julia Mannes, Nicole Marshall, Mark James Carey, Robbie Duschinsky, Richard Meiser-Stedman

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The relationship between attachment and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) has been researched extensively within adult samples, with findings consistently demonstrating a relationship between insecure attachment and increased PTSS, and between secure attachment and decreased PTSS. To a lesser extent, such relationships have also been explored within child and adolescent samples. The evidence to date is equivocal and there have been no attempts to synthesize studies. This meta-analysis aimed to provide a quantitative synthesis of studies reporting a relationship between attachment orientation (on both developmental and social psychological measures) and PTSS within children and adolescents. A random effects model was used to pool 30 studies (N = 10,431) reporting exposure to a range of traumatic events including maltreatment and war trauma. Results demonstrate a negative correlation between secure attachment and PTSS (r = −.16) and a positive correlation between insecure attachment (r = .20), avoidant attachment (r = .20), anxious attachment (r = .32), and disorganized attachment (r = .17) and PTSS. These findings indicate a small but significant relationship between attachment and PTSS in children and adolescents. Exposure to maltreatment did not moderate the relationship between secure attachment and PTSS, though strengthened the relationship between insecure attachment and PTSS.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Early online date31 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2023

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