Skip to main content Accessibility help

The distinctive role of romantic relationships in moderating the effects of early caregiving on adult anxious–depressed symptoms over 9 years

  • Jessica E. Salvatore (a1), Katherine C. Haydon (a2), Jeffry A. Simpson (a3) and W. Andrew Collins (a3)


This study tests a model of young adult romantic quality as a moderator of the effects of early caregiving on anxious–depressed symptoms over a 9-year period in adulthood. Participants (n = 93) were a subsample from a longitudinal study of risk and adaptation. Quality of early caregiving was measured using observational data collected at five points in the first 4 years of life. Young adult romantic relationship quality was assessed from interviews with participants at age 23. Self-report anxious–depressed symptoms were measured at ages 23, 26, and 32. The results indicated that romantic quality moderated early caregiving to predict symptom levels across this period, with evidence for inoculation, amplification, and compensation effects. A discriminant analysis examining young adult work competence as a moderator provided further evidence for the distinctiveness of romantic relationships in changing the association between early caregiving and adult internalizing symptoms.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jessica E. Salvatore, Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University, PO Box 980126, Richmond, VA 23298-0126; E-mail:


Hide All
Achenbach, T. M. (1997). Manual for the Young Adult Self-Report and Young Adult Behavior Checklist. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
Achenbach, T. M. (2003). Manual for the Adult Self-Report. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Department of Psychiatry.
Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Ainsworth, M., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Appleyard, K., Egeland, B., & Sroufe, L. A. (2007). Direct social support for young high-risk children: Relations with behavioral and emotional outcomes across time. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 443457.
Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Paris, M. (1995). Falling in love: Prospective studies of self-concept change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 11021112.
Bates, D., & Maechler, M. (2010). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes [Computer software]. Retrieved from
Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Clinical, experimental and theoretical aspects. London: Staples.
Beck, A. T., Ward, C., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & Erbaugh, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 5363.
Blaney, P. H. (1986). Affect and memory: A review. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 229246.
Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books.
Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and depression. New York: Basic Books.
Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books. [Original work published 1969]
Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent–child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books.
Brock, R. L., & Lawrence, E. (2011). Marriage as a risk factor for internalizing disorders: Clarifying scope and specificity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79, 577589.
Brown, G. W., & Harris, T. O. (1978). Social origins of depression: A study of psychiatric disorder in women. London: Tavistock.
Burbach, D. J., & Bourduin, C. M. (1986). Parent–child relations and the etiology of depression: A review of methods and findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 6, 133153.
Burnham, K. P., & Anderson, D. R. (2004). Multimodel inference: Understanding AIC and BIC in model selection. Sociological Methods and Research, 33, 261304.
Butcher, J. N., Dahlstrom, W. G., Graham, J. R., Tellegen, A., & Kaemmer, B. (1989). Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2): Manual for administration and scoring. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Caldwell, B., Heider, J., & Kaplan, B. (1966). The inventory of home stimulation. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association, New York.
Cicchetti, D. (1984). The emergence of developmental psychopathology. Child Development, 55, 17.
Cicchetti, D. (1989). Developmental psychopathology: Some thoughts on its evolution. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 14.
Coan, J. A. (2008). Toward a neuroscience of attachment. In Cassidy, J. & Shaver, P. R. (Eds.), Handbook of attachment (2nd ed., pp. 241265). New York: Guilford Press.
Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Collins, W. A., Christian, S., Englund, M., Patterson, L., Ruh, J., Schwichtenberg, A. J., et al. (1999). Scales and coding manual for romantic relationship interviews. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Collins, W. A., & van Dulmen, M. (2006). The significance of middle childhood peer competence for work and relationships in early adulthood. In Huston, A. (Ed.), Successful pathways from middle childhood to adulthood (pp. 2340). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Conger, R. D., Cui, M., Bryant, C. M., & Elder, G. H. Jr. (2000). Competence in early adult romantic relationships: A developmental perspective on family influences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 224237.
Cook, D. R. (1977). Detection of influential observation in linear regression. Technometrics, 19, 1518.
Coyne, J. C. (1976). Toward an interactional description of depression. Psychiatry, 39, 1427.
Crowell, J. A., Treboux, D., & Waters, E. (2002). Stability of attachment representations: The transition to marriage. Developmental Psychology, 38, 467479.
Derogatis, L. R. (1977/1994). SCL-90-R: Administration scoring and procedures manual. Minneapolis, MN: National Computer Systems.
Duggal, S., Carlson, E. A., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (2001). Depressive symptomatology in childhood and adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 143164.
Eberhart, N. K., & Hammen, C. L. (2010). Interpersonal style, stress, and depression: An examination of transactional and diathesis-stress models. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29, 2338.
Edwards, A. C., Larsson, H., Lichtenstein, P., & Kendler, K. S. (2011). Early environmental influences contribute to covariation between internalizing symptoms and alcohol intoxication frequency across adolescence. Addictive Behaviors, 36, 175182.
Edwards, M. C., & Wirth, R. J. (2009). Measurement and the study of change. Research in Human Development, 6, 7496.
Erickson, M. F., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (1985). The relationship between quality of attachment and behavior problems in preschool in a high-risk sample. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50, 147166.
Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.
Evenson, R. J., & Simon, R. W. (2005). Clarifying the relationship between parenthood and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46, 341358.
Franz, C. E., Weinberger, J., & McClelland, D. C. (1991). Childhood antecedents of conventional social accomplishment in midlife adults: A 36-year prospective study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 586595.
George, C., Kaplan, N., & Main, M. (1985). The Adult Attachment Interview. Unpublished manuscript. University of California, Berkeley.
Groh, A. M., Roisman, G. I., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Fearon, R. P. (2012). The significance of insecure and disorganized attachment for children's internalizing symptoms: A meta-analytic study. Child Development, 83, 591610.
Hammen, C. (1991). The generation of stress in the course of unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 555561.
Hammen, C. (1992). Cognitive, life stress, and interpersonal approaches to a developmental psychopathology model of depression. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 189206.
Harlow, H. F., & Suomi, S. J. (1971). Social recovery by isolation-reared monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 68, 15341538.
Haydon, K. C., Collins, W. A., Salvatore, J. E., Simpson, J. A., & Roisman, G. I. (2012). Shared and distinctive origins and correlates of adult attachment representations: The developmental organization of romantic functioning. Child Development, 83, 16891702.
Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1994). Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationships. Psychological Inquiry, 5, 122.
Hofer, M. A. (1994). Hidden regulators in attachment, separation, and loss. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, 192207.
Horwitz, A. V., White, H. R., & Howell-White, S. (1996). The use of multiple outcomes in stress research: A case study of gender difference in responses to marital dissolution. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 37, 278291.
Kagan, J. (1980). Four questions in psychological development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 3, 231241.
Kendler, K. S., Gardner, C. O., & Prescott, C. A. (2002). Toward a comprehensive developmental model for major depression in women. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 11331145.
Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (1993). Turning points in the life course: Why change matters to the study of crime. Criminology, 31, 301325.
Matas, L., Arend, R. A., & Sroufe, L. A. (1978). Continuity of adaptation in the second year: The relationship between quality of attachment and later competence. Child Development, 49, 547556.
Mikulincer, M., & Florian, V. (1998). The relationship between adult attachment styles and emotional and cognitive reactions to stressful events. In Simpson, J. A. & Rholes, W. S. (Eds.), Attachment theory and close relationships (pp. 143165). New York: Guilford Press.
Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Pereg, D. (2003). Attachment theory and affect regulation: The dynamics, development, and cognitive consequences of attachment-related strategies. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 77102.
Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., Harrington, H., Milne, B. J., Melchior, M., Golderberg, D., et al. (2007). Generalized anxiety disorder and depression: Childhood risk factors in a birth cohort followed to age 32. Psychological Medicine, 37, 441452.
Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). The self-fulfilling nature of positive illusions in romantic relationships: Love is not blind, but prescient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 11551180.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Girgus, J. S. (1994). The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 424443.
O'Connor, T. G. (2003). Early experiences and psychological development: Conceptual questions, empirical illustrations, and implications for intervention. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 671690.
Overbeek, G., Stattin, H., Vermulst, A., Ha, T., & Engels, R. (2007). Parent–child relationships, partner relationships, and emotional adjustment: A birth-to-maturity prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 43, 429437.
Pearlin, L. I., & Johnson, J. S. (1977). Marital status, life-strains, and depression. American Sociological Review, 42, 704715.
Preacher, K. J., Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2006). Computational tools for probing interaction effects in multiple linear regression, multilevel modeling, and latent curve analysis. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 31, 437448.
Proulx, C. M., Helms, H. M., & Buehler, C. (2007). Marital quality and personal well-being: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 69, 576593.
Quinton, D., Pickles, A., Maughan, B., & Rutter, M. (1993). Partners, peers, and pathways: Assortative pairing and continuities in conduct disorder. Development and Psychopathology, 5, 763783.
R Development Core Team. (2010). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Radloff, L. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385401.
Raftery, A. E. (1995). Bayesian model selection in social research. Sociological Methodology, 25, 111163.
Roisman, G. I., Aguilar, B., & Egeland, B. (2004). Antisocial behavior in the transition to adulthood: The independent and interactive roles of developmental history and emerging developmental tasks. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 857871.
Roisman, G. I., Collins, W. A., Sroufe, L. A., & Egeland, B. (2005). Predictors of young adults' representations of and behavior in their current romantic relationship: Prospective tests of the prototype hypothesis. Attachment & Human Development, 7, 105121.
Rönkä, A., Oravala, S., & Pulkkinen, L. (2002). “I met this wife of mine and things got onto a better track”: Turning points in risk development. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 4763.
Rusbult, C. E., Verette, J., Whitney, G. A., Slovik, L. F., & Lipkus, I. (1991). Accommodation processes in close relationships: Theory and preliminary empirical evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 5378.
Rutter, M. (1999). Resiliency concepts and findings: Implications for family therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 21, 119144.
Rutter, M., Quinton, D., & Hill, J. (1990). Adult outcome of institution-reared children: Males and females compared. In Robins, L. N. & Rutter, M. (Eds.), Straight and devious pathways from childhood to adulthood (pp. 135157). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rutter, M., Silberg, J., O'Connor, T., & Simonoff, E. (1999). Genetics and child psychiatry: II. Empirical research findings. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 1955.
Rutter, M., & Sroufe, L. A. (2000). Developmental psychopathology: Concepts and challenges. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 265296.
Salvatore, J. E., Kuo, S. I., Steele, R., Simpson, J. A., & Collins, W. A. (2011). Recovering from conflict in romantic relationships: A developmental perspective. Psychological Science, 22, 376383.
Sameroff, A. J. (2000). Developmental systems and psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 297312.
Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1990). Crime and deviance over the life course: The salience of adult social bonds. American Sociological Review, 55, 609627.
Sampson, R. J., & Laub, J. H. (1993). Crime in the making: Pathways and turning points through life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sbarra, D. A., & Hazan, C. (2008). Coregulation, dysregulation, self-regulation: An integrative analysis and empirical agenda for understanding adult attachment, separation, loss, and recovery. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12, 141167.
Schaffer, H. R. (2000). The early experience assumption: Past, present, and future. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24, 514.
Schore, A. N. (2001). Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22, 766.
Schore, A. N. (2005). Back to basics: Attachment, affect regulation, and the developing right brain: Linking developmental neuroscience to pediatrics. Pediatrics in Review, 26, 204217.
Schwarz, G. (1978). Estimating the dimension of a model. Annals of Statistics, 6, 461464.
Sears, R. R., Maccoby, E. E., & Levin, H. (1957). Patterns of child-rearing. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.
Simpson, J. A., Collins, W. A., Tran, S., & Haydon, K. C. (2007). Attachment and the experience and expression of emotions in romantic relationships: A developmental perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 355367.
Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., Carlson, E. A., & Collins, W. A. (2005). The development of the person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Guilford Press.
Sroufe, L. A., Egeland, B., & Kreutzer, T. (1990). The fate of early experience following developmental change: Longitudinal approaches to individual adaptation in childhood. Child Development, 61, 13631373.
Toth, S. L., Manly, J. T., & Cicchetti, D. (1992). Child maltreatment and vulnerability to depression. Development and Psychopathology, 4, 97112.
Treboux, D., Crowell, J. A., & Waters, E. (2004). When “new” meets “old”: Configurations of adult attachment representations and their implications for marital functioning. Developmental Psychology, 40, 295314.
van Buuren, S., & Groothuis-Oudshoorn, K. (2009). Mice: Multivariate imputation by chained equations. R package version 1.21 [Computer software]. Retrieved from
van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (1996). Attachment representations in mothers, fathers, adolescents, and clinical groups: A meta-analytic search for normative data. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 821.
Whisman, M. A. (2001). The association between depression and marital dissatisfaction. In Beach, S. R. H. (Ed.), Marital and family processes in depression: A scientific foundation for clinical practice (pp. 324). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Whisman, M. A., Uebelacker, L. A., & Weinstock, L. M. (2004). Psychopathology and marital satisfaction: The importance of evaluating both partners. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 830838.
Zoccolillo, M., Pickles, A., Quinton, D., & Rutter, M. (1992). The outcome of childhood conduct disorder: Implications for defining adult personality disorder and conduct disorder. Psychological Medicine, 22, 971986.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed