A linguistic inquiry and word count analysis of the adult attachment interview in two large corpora

Theodore E A Waters, Katherine C. Haydon, Ryan D. Steele, Glenn I. Roisman, Cathryn Booth-LaForce

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


An emerging literature suggests that variation in Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) states of mind about childhood experiences with primary caregivers is reflected in specific linguistic features captured by the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) automated text analysis program (Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007). The current report addressed limitations of prior studies in this literature by using 2 large AAI corpora (Ns = 826 and 857) and a broader range of linguistic variables, as well as examining associations of LIWC-derived AAI dimensions with key developmental antecedents. First, regression analyses revealed that dismissing states of mind were associated with transcripts that were more truncated and deemphasized discussion of the attachment relationship whereas preoccupied states of mind were associated with longer, more conflicted, and angry narratives. Second, in aggregate, LIWC variables accounted for over a third of the variation in AAI dismissing and preoccupied states of mind, with regression weights cross-validating across samples. Third, LIWCderived dismissing and preoccupied state of mind dimensions were associated with direct observations of maternal and paternal sensitivity as well as infant attachment security in childhood, replicating the pattern of results reported in Haydon, Roisman, Owen, Booth-LaForce, and Cox (2014) using coderderived dismissing and preoccupation scores in the same sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-88
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Behavioural Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the effort of Cory Buenting, Lauren Wruble, and Laura Baer, who helped prepare the data for analysis. The research presented in this paper was supported by a series of grants (including a Beckman Award) from the Research Board at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an NIMH National Research Service Award (MH19893-04), and a Wayne F. Placek Award from the American Psychological Foundation to Glenn I. Roisman, as well as support by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R01 HD054822 to Cathryn Booth-LaForce and F32 HD078250 to Theodore E. A. Waters. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Canadian Psychological Association.


  • Adult Attachment Interview
  • Attachment
  • LIWC
  • Linguistic structure


Dive into the research topics of 'A linguistic inquiry and word count analysis of the adult attachment interview in two large corpora'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this