The relation of attachment status, psychiatric classification, and response to psychotherapy

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996 Feb;64(1):22-31. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.64.1.22.


The relation of patterns of attachment and psychiatric status was studied in 82 nonpsychotic inpatients and 85 case-matched controls using the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). AAI transcripts rated (masked to case vs. control status and treatment) were classified using M. Main and R. Goldwyn's (1991) system. Psychiatric patients, diagnosed with the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed., rev.) I and II structured interviews, were more likely to be classified as preoccupied and unresolved with respect to loss or abuse. On Axis I, anxiety was associated with unresolved status, and AAI scales were able to discriminate depression and eating disorder. On Axis II, borderline personality disorder (BPD) was linked to experience of severe trauma and lack of resolution with respect to it. BPD patients were also rated significantly lower on a scale measuring awareness of mental states. Preliminary outcome results suggest that individuals rated as dismissing on the AAI are more likely to show improvements in psychotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Borderline Personality Disorder / classification
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / classification*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment*
  • Patient Admission
  • Personality Assessment
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Treatment Outcome