Attachment avoidance and internalizing symptoms: Does respiratory sinus arrhythmia withdrawal make a difference?

J Affect Disord. 2022 Oct 15:315:267-273. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2022.07.070. Epub 2022 Aug 6.


Objective: This study investigated the association between attachment avoidance and internalizing symptoms and the moderating role of parasympathetic nervous activity (indexed by respiratory sinus arrhythmia withdrawal) in the association.

Methods: A sample of 109 (Mage = 18.94 years old, SD = 0.92; 69 male) Chinese college students participated in this study. Participants reported attachment avoidance and internalizing symptoms, and their physiological data were collected.

Results: Results showed a positive link between attachment avoidance and internalizing symptoms. Further, respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) withdrawal and attachment avoidance interactively predicted internalizing symptoms. Specifically, the positive relation between attachment avoidance and internalizing symptoms was only found among people of low, but not high, levels of RSA withdrawal.

Conclusion: Our study highlighted the importance of considering psychophysiological interactions in predicting internalizing symptoms in college students, and contributed to our understanding of the complicated factors underlying college students' internalizing problems.

Keywords: Attachment avoidance; Internalizing symptoms; Parasympathetic nervous activity; Respiratory sinus arrhythmia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System
  • Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia* / physiology
  • Students
  • Young Adult