The role of attachment style in interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed adolescents

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3 Scopus citations


Objective(s): This study examined changes in depressed adolescents' reports of attachment anxiety and avoidance with interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT-A), and the relationship between attachment style and change in depression with IPT-A. Method: Forty adolescents (aged 12–17) participated in a 16-week randomized clinical trial of 4 adaptive treatment strategies for adolescent depression that began with IPT-A and augmented treatment for insufficient responders (n = 22) by adding additional IPT-A sessions (n = 11) or the antidepressant medication, fluoxetine (n = 11). Adolescents were 77.5% female and 22.5% male (mean age = 14.8, SD = 1.8). Ten percent of adolescents were Latino. Racial composition was 7.5% Asian, 7.5% American Indian/Alaska Native, 80.0% white, and 5.0% biracial. Measures of attachment style (Experience in Close Relationships Scale—Revised [ECR-R]) and depression (Children's Depression Rating Scale—Revised [CDRS-R]) were administered at baseline and Weeks 8 and 16. Results: Attachment Anxiety and Avoidance (ECR-R) decreased significantly from baseline to Week 16. Baseline Avoidance positively predicted greater reductions in depression (CDRS-R), controlling for fluoxetine. Reductions in Anxiety and Avoidance were also significantly associated with reductions in CDRS-R, controlling for fluoxetine. Conclusions: Adolescents' reports of attachment anxiety and avoidance are amenable to intervention with IPT-A. IPT-A may be particularly beneficial for adolescents who report a high level of avoidant attachment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-85
Number of pages8
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health [grant number K23MH090216] of the National Institutes of Health; the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences [grant number UL1TR000114] of the National Institutes of Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the National Center for Research Resources. Study data were collected and managed using REDCap electronic data capture tools hosted at the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 Society for Psychotherapy Research.


  • attachment
  • child psychotherapy
  • depression
  • outcome research

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