Attachment and loss experiences during childhood are associated with adult hostility, depression, and social support

J Psychosom Res. 2000 Jul;49(1):85-91. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(00)00151-3.


Objectives: This study examined developmental antecedents to psychosocial traits in adulthood that have been linked in prior studies to increased risk of heart disease. The hypothesis was tested that early parental loss coupled with poor-quality family relationships (FR) during childhood would be associated with increased hostility and depression, and lower social support in adulthood.

Methods: Participants included 30 university students who experienced the death of one parent before the age of 16, and 31 control participants. Questionnaires were completed measuring current social support, hostility, depression, and the quality of FR.

Results: Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) supported the hypothesis of maladaptive psychosocial characteristics in loss participants reporting poorer-quality FR. Significant interactions of loss and FR were found for individual variables of depressive symptoms, social support, and hostility.

Conclusion: These results provide evidence that parental loss in childhood is associated with health-damaging psychosocial characteristics in adulthood only if the quality of the surviving FR is poor.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Hostility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Object Attachment*
  • Personality Development*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support*
  • Students / psychology
  • Type A Personality