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Infant Ment Health J. 2011 Jul;32(4):450-472.

Risks and Outcomes Associated with Disorganized/Controlling Patterns of Attachment at Age Three in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

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New York University.


Disorganized/controlling attachment in preschool has been found to be associated with maternal and child maladjustment, making it of keen interest in the study of psychopathology. Additional work is needed, however, to better understand disorganized/controlling attachment occurring as early as age three. The primary aims of this study were to evaluate risk factors and outcomes associated with disorganized/controlling behavior at age three and to evaluate the risk factors and outcomes differentiating the four subtypes of disorganized/controlling attachment. Analyses were conducted with the first two phases of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a prospective study of 1,364 children from birth. At 36 months of age, across the attachment-relevant domains of maternal well-being, mother-child interactions, and child social adaptation, the disorganized/controlling group evidenced the most maladaptive patterns in comparison to both secure and insecure-organized groups. At 54 months of age, the disorganized/controlling group displayed the highest levels of internalizing and externalizing behavior problems, as rated by mothers and teachers, and the lowest quality relationships with teachers. Significant differences found among the disorganized/controlling subtypes indicated that the behaviorally disorganized and controlling-punitive subtypes had more maladaptive patterns across variables than did the controlling-caregiving and controlling-mixed subtypes.

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