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J Genet Psychol. 2012 Apr-Jun;173(2):119-41.

Attachment, parenting, and separation--individuation in adolescence: a comparison of hospitalized adolescents, institutionalized delinquents, and controls.

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  • 1Université Libre de Bruxelles, Hôpital Erasme, Route de Lennik 808, 1070 Bruxelles, Belgium.


The authors compared parent-related perceptions by hospitalized adolescents (i.e., who were admitted to a specialized psychiatric unit; n = 50) and delinquent adolescents (i.e., who were placed at a juvenile treatment institution; n = 51) with adolescents from the general population (n = 51). All adolescents completed a broad set of measures of attachment, perceived parenting, and separation-individuation. Contrary to initial expectations, hospitalized adolescents scored higher than controls on indices of excessive autonomy. Ambivalence regarding issues of interpersonal closeness and distance was found among delinquent adolescents. In addition, hospitalized and delinquent adolescents were found to be struggling, each in their specific way, with attachment-related experiences of trauma. Finally, delinquent adolescents also showed a stage-appropriate form of potentially adaptive narcissism. These findings add to the growing consensus in the literature that associations between adolescent psychopathology and parent-related perceptions are typically complex and somewhat counterintuitive.

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