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Aging Ment Health. 2013;17(4):508-16. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2012.747080. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

Caregiving spouses' attachment orientations and the physical and psychological health of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

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Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.



Attachment theory is a useful framework for understanding how caregiving dyads regulate emotions and maintain feelings of security in reaction to a loved one's chronic illness. In this study we examined the extent to which the attachment orientations (anxiety and avoidance) of persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and their spousal caregivers were associated with each partner's report of the physical and psychological health symptoms of the person with AD.


Fifty-eight individuals with AD and their spousal caregivers each completed a 12-item self-report measure of trait attachment orientation and rated the physical and psychological health symptoms of the person with AD over the past two weeks. Data from the persons with AD were used after determining that they were able to provide reliable responses.


As predicted, individuals with AD who were high in anxious attachment self-reported more physical and psychological symptoms, particularly when their caregivers were high in anxious attachment. Also, caregivers perceived more physical symptoms in individuals with AD who were high in avoidant attachment.


This study highlights the importance of considering the attachment security of both caregivers and persons with AD when considering how each partner views the psychological and physical health symptoms of the person with AD. Our results have implications for providing care-recipients and caregivers with improved, tailored care.

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