Child attachment and sensory regulation in psychiatric clinic-referred preschoolers

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;22(4):572-587. doi: 10.1177/1359104516667997. Epub 2016 Sep 15.


Background: Individuals with sensory regulation disorders present with many difficulties in terms of managing emotions, behavior, and motor control. Children with such difficulties are often referred to psychiatric clinics for assessment of their behavioral and emotional problems. Few studies have investigated the role of environmental factors on sensory dysfunctions, and none have specifically studied its association with child attachment in a clinical sample.

Objective: In this cross-sectional study, we examined the association between sensory regulation and child attachment among preschoolers referred to a psychiatric clinic.

Method: A sample of 60 preschoolers and their mothers were recruited through a child psychiatric clinic. Child attachment was assessed with the gold standard separation-reunion procedure for preschoolers. Parents completed the sensory profile, which assesses the presence of child hypersensitivity (sensitivity and avoidant scale) and hyposensitivity (sensory seeking and registration scale).

Results: Data showed that 57% of the children were presented with clinical symptoms of sensory regulation. In addition, 53% of the children were classified insecure behaviorally disorganized or insecure disorganized controlling. In particular, results revealed that children classified as insecure disorganized controlling were significantly more likely to show hypersensitivity avoidance and sensory-seeking behaviors.

Conclusion: This study underscores the importance of the parent-child relationship for children with sensory regulation difficulties.

Keywords: Sensory regulation; child attachment; child psychiatry; disorganization; sensory profile.

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior Disorders / classification
  • Child Behavior Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations* / psychology
  • Object Attachment*
  • Self-Control* / psychology