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Attachment states of mind and inferred childhood experiences in maltreated and comparison adolescents from low-income families

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2017

Glenn I. Roisman*
University of Minnesota
Fred A. Rogosch
University of Rochester Mt. Hope Family Center
Dante Cicchetti
University of Minnesota University of Rochester Mt. Hope Family Center
Ashley M. Groh
University of Missouri
John D. Haltigan
University of Ottawa
Katherine C. Haydon
Mount Holyoke College
Ashley S. Holland
Edgewood College
Ryan D. Steele
University of Minnesota
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Glenn I. Roisman, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail:


This paper reports the first large-sample investigation of the maltreatment-related correlates of low-income adolescents’ narratives about their childhood experiences with primary caregivers, as assessed with a modified version of the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and based on official reports of abuse and neglect (maltreated n = 214, nonmaltreated n = 140; M age = 16.7 years). Drawing on factor-analytic and taxometric evidence indicating that AAI narratives vary along two state of mind (i.e., dismissing and preoccupied) and two inferred childhood experience (i.e., maternal and paternal) dimensions, here we demonstrate that the experience of maltreatment, particularly when chronic, is associated with increased risk for dismissing and preoccupied states of mind and more negative inferred childhood experiences. Although such maltreatment-related associations were generally not specific to any of the four AAI dimensions, the experience of physical and/or sexual abuse was uniquely associated with preoccupied states of mind and negative inferred paternal experiences even after controlling for the other AAI dimensions. More extensive paternal perpetration of maltreatment also was uniquely related to more negative inferred paternal experiences.

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