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Am J Addict. 2014 May-Jun;23(3):294-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2014.12104.x.

Attachment security and problematic substance use in low-income, suicidal, African American women.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.



While secure attachment may buffer the effect of adverse early experiences on the development of behavioral problems in children, whether attachment security may provide resilience against problematic substance use in adulthood is less clear, and addressed by this study.


We examined relations between attachment security and problematic substance use in 356 African American women recruited for a suicide prevention/intervention study. Problematic substance use was defined as a positive screen on either the Brief Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test or the Drug Abuse Screening Test-10. Attachment security was assessed using the Secure Subscale of the Relationship Scales Questionnaire. Associations between demographic and psychosocial variables (age, education, unemployment, homelessness, attachment security, past childhood maltreatment, current exposure to intimate partner violence, and depressive symptoms) and problematic substance use were determined using logistic regression analyses.


Participants averaged 35.1 ± 10.0 years of age, and exhibited significant psychosocial challenges. More secure attachment was independently associated with a lower likelihood of problematic drug use (OR = .516, 95% CI (.343-.777), p ≤ .01); and the problematic use of either alcohol or drugs (OR = .563, 95% CI (.374-.849), p ≤ .01). Attachment security, along with childhood maltreatment, age, and homelessness, accounted for 25.5% of the variance in problematic substance use.


Participants who reported greater attachment security were significantly less likely to engage in problematic substance use.


Future research should explore attachment security as a resilience factor against problematic substance use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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