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The Influence of Attachment Styles and Personality Organization on Emotional Functioning After Childhood Trauma

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The Influence of Attachment Styles and Personality Organization on Emotional Functioning After Childhood Trauma

Jürgen Fuchshuber et al. Front Psychiatry.

Abstract

Background: Current literature suggests a tenuous link among childhood trauma, personality organization, adult attachment, and emotional functioning in various psychiatric disorders. However, empirical research focusing on the interaction of these concepts is sparse. Therefore, this study intends to investigate the influence of personality organization and attachment dimensions on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and emotional functioning in adult life. To assess emotional functioning, we adopted the Affective Neuroscience model of primary emotions, comprising SEEKING, FEAR, ANGER, SADNESS, CARE, and PLAY. Methods: The total sample consisted of 616 nonclinical adults (Age: M = 30; SD = 9.53; 61.9% female). Path analysis was applied to investigate interactions among childhood trauma, personality organization, adult attachment, and primary emotion dispositions. Results: The findings suggest that childhood trauma significantly predicted deficits in personality organization and insecure attachment (all p < 0.001). Furthermore, a reduced level of personality organization was significantly associated with increased ANGER (p < 0.001), whereas adult attachment substantially predicted primary emotion dispositions in general. Moreover, the results indicate significant mediational effects of personality organization and attachment dimensions on the relationship between childhood trauma and primary emotions (p < 0.01). The final model was able to explain 48% of the variance in SADNESS, 38% in PLAY, 35% in FEAR, 28% in CARE, 14% in ANGER, and 13% in SEEKING. Discussion: The findings contribute to the understanding of the relationship between childhood maltreatment and impaired emotional functioning in adult life. Furthermore, the importance of personality organization and attachment dimensions for emotion regulation is underlined. Consequently, the treatment of patients with childhood trauma should focus on facilitating the development of more secure attachment patterns and increased personality functioning to improve overall emotional functioning.

Keywords: adult attachment; affect regulation; childhood trauma; mediation; personality organization; primary emotions; structural equation modeling.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Initial model of Childhood Trauma, Structural Deficit, Adult Attachment, and Primary Emotions controlled for Age and Sex.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Final model of Childhood Trauma, Structural Deficit, Adult attachment, and Primary Emotions controlled for Age and Sex; *p < 0.001.

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