Antecedents of attachment states of mind in normative-risk and high-risk caregiving: cross-race and cross-sex generalizability in two longitudinal studies

John D. Haltigan, Glenn I. Roisman, Ashley M. Groh, Ashley S. Holland, Cathryn Booth-LaForce, Fred A. Rogosch, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Longitudinal investigations of relatively large typical-risk (e.g., Booth-LaForce & Roisman, 2014) and higher-risk samples (e.g., Raby et al., 2017; Roisman et al., 2017) have produced evidence consistent with the claim that attachment states of mind in adolescence and young adulthood, as measured by the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI), are associated with the quality of caregiving experienced during childhood. None of these studies, however, has examined whether such associations are consistent across sex and/or race, as would be expected in light of the sensitivity hypothesis of attachment theory. Methods: We examine whether sex or race moderates previously reported links between caregiving and AAI states of mind in two longitudinal studies (pooled N = 1,058) in which caregiving was measured either within (i.e., observed [in]sensitive care) or outside (i.e., childhood maltreatment) of the normative range of caregiving experiences. Results: Hierarchical moderated regression analyses in both longitudinal cohorts provided evidence that maternal insensitivity and experiences of maltreatment were prospectively associated with dismissing and preoccupied states of mind in adolescence, as hypothesized. Moreover, these associations were generally comparable in magnitude for African American and White/non-Hispanic participants and were not conditional on participants’ biological sex. Conclusions: Both maternal insensitivity and the experience of maltreatment increased risk for insecure attachment states of mind in adolescence. Moreover, our analyses provided little evidence that either participant race or participant sex assigned at birth moderated these nontrivial associations between measures of the quality of experienced caregiving and insecure attachment states of mind in adolescence. These findings provide support for the sensitivity hypothesis of attachment theory and inform the cultural universality hypothesis of attachment processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1322
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver NICHD of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01 HD054822 to C.B. and R01 HD069442 to G.I.R. Support for the Rochester adolescent study was received from the National Institute on Drug Abuse under Award Number R01 DA12903 to D.C. and F.A.R. The contents of this manuscript are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development or the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The authors are grateful to the SECCYD and Rochester participants and families for their time. The authors have declared that they have no competing or potential conflicts of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health


  • Adult Attachment Interview
  • attachment
  • attachment states of mind
  • cultural differences
  • maltreatment
  • sensitivity


Dive into the research topics of 'Antecedents of attachment states of mind in normative-risk and high-risk caregiving: cross-race and cross-sex generalizability in two longitudinal studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this