Mother-child attachment patterns and different types of anxiety symptoms: is there specificity of relations?

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2010 Dec;41(6):663-74. doi: 10.1007/s10578-010-0195-0.


The purpose of this study was to test Manassis' proposal (Child-parent relations: Attachment and anxiety disorders, 255-272, 2001) that attachment patterns (secure, ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized) may relate to different types of anxiety symptoms, and that behavioral inhibition may moderate these relations. Using a story stem interview to assess attachment and children's reports of anxiety symptoms, we found some support for these hypotheses in a sample of 10-12 years olds. Security was related to lower levels of all types of anxieties, except separation anxiety. Ambivalence was positively related to separation anxiety, although this relation was stronger for boys. Although avoidance was not related to anxiety, disorganization was positively related to somatic symptoms, social phobia, and school phobia. Behavioral inhibition moderated the relations of security with social phobia, and of disorganization with school phobia. The findings suggest that it is important to consider specificity between attachment patterns and various types of anxiety symptoms and to recognize that these relations may be altered by other risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors