Mental models of attachment and coping with abortion

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Feb;74(2):453-67. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.74.2.453.


This study explored the relationships between mental models of attachment and adjustment to abortion in 408 women undergoing a 1st-trimester abortion at a large free-standing abortion clinic. As expected, mental models of attachment were related to postabortion distress and positive well-being. These relationships were mediated by feelings of self-efficacy for coping with abortion, perceived support from a woman's male partner, and perceived conflict from this same source. Model of self and model of others interacted only in predicting perceived conflict and positive well-being. Model of self was more strongly related to the mediator and outcome variables than was model of others. The effects of model of self, however, were largely a reflection of the overlap between model of self and self-esteem.

PIP: The relationship between mental models of attachment and adjustment to induced abortion was explored in 408 women undergoing first-trimester pregnancy termination at an abortion clinic in Buffalo, New York (US), in 1993. It was hypothesized that mental models would affect how supportive or conflictive a woman perceived her male partner to be and her self-efficacy in coping with the stress of abortion. It was further postulated that social support, social conflict, and self-efficacy would function as mediators of the associations among mental models and postabortion adjustment. 40% of respondents characterized their attachment style as secure; another 32% described themselves as fearful, 9% as preoccupied, and 19% as dismissing. As expected, women with secure attachment styles perceived higher levels of social support and lower levels of conflict from their male partners than other women and had higher self-esteem. The more positive a woman's model of self, the less distress she reported in the immediate postabortion period. A positive model of self also had a promotive effect on self-efficacy for coping. The effects of model of self were largely a reflection, however, of the overlap between model of self and self-esteem. The combination of self-esteem, the attachment variables, and the mediator variables accounted for 24% of the variance in postabortion distress and 65% of the variance in postabortion positive well-being. Further research is needed to clarify the differential effects of general versus specific mental models of attachment on a wide variety of processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Models, Psychological
  • New York
  • Object Attachment*
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support