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Separation from parents during childhood trauma predicts adult attachment security and post-traumatic stress disorder

Citation

Bryant, RA and Creamer, M and O'Donnell, M and Forbes, D and Felmingham, KL and Silove, D and Malhi, G and Van Hoof, M and McFarlane, AC and Nickerson, A, Separation from parents during childhood trauma predicts adult attachment security and post-traumatic stress disorder, Psychological Medicine, 47, (11) pp. 2028-2035. ISSN 0033-2917 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 Cambridge University Press

DOI: doi:10.1017/S0033291717000472

Abstract

Background: Prolonged separation from parental support is a risk factor for psychopathology. This study assessed the impact of brief separation from parents during childhood trauma on adult attachment tendencies and post-traumatic stress.

Method: Children (n = 806) exposed to a major Australian bushfire disaster in 1983 and matched controls (n=725) were assessed in the aftermath of the fires (mean age 78 years) via parent reports of trauma exposure and separation from parents during the fires. Participants (n = 500) were subsequently assessed 28 years after initial assessment on the Experiences in Close Relationships scale to assess attachment security, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was assessed using the PTSD checklist.

Results: Being separated from parents was significantly related to having an avoidant attachment style as an adult (B = −3.69, s.e. = 1.48, β = −0.23, p = 0.013). Avoidant attachment was associated with re-experiencing (B = 0.03, s.e. = 0.01, β = 0.31, p = 0.045), avoidance (B = 0.03, s.e. = 0.01, β = 0.30, p = 0.001) and numbing (B = 0.03, s.e. = 0.01, β = 0.30, p < 0.001) symptoms. Anxious attachment was associated with re-experiencing (B = 0.03, s.e. = 0.01, β = 0.18, p = 0.001), numbing (B = 0.03, β = 0.30, s.e. = 0.01, p < 0.001) and arousal (B = 0.04, s.e. = 0.01, β = 0.43, p < 0.001) symptoms.

Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that brief separation from attachments during childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on one's attachment security, and that this can be associated with adult post-traumatic psychopathology.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:attachment, childhood, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation
Research Division:Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Research Group:Psychology
Research Field:Developmental Psychology and Ageing
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
UTAS Author:Felmingham, KL (Professor Kim Felmingham)
ID Code:126104
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2018-05-23
Last Modified:2018-08-16
Downloads:0

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