Antecedents of attachment states of mind in normative-risk and high-risk caregiving: cross-race and cross-sex generalizability in two longitudinal studies

John D. Haltigan, Glenn I. Roisman, Ashley M. Groh, Ashley S. Holland, Cathryn Booth-LaForce, Fred A. Rogosch, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Longitudinal investigations of relatively large typical-risk (e.g., Booth-LaForce & Roisman, 2014) and higher-risk samples (e.g., Raby et al., 2017; Roisman et al., 2017) have produced evidence consistent with the claim that attachment states of mind in adolescence and young adulthood, as measured by the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI), are associated with the quality of caregiving experienced during childhood. None of these studies, however, has examined whether such associations are consistent across sex and/or race, as would be expected in light of the sensitivity hypothesis of attachment theory. Methods: We examine whether sex or race moderates previously reported links between caregiving and AAI states of mind in two longitudinal studies (pooled N = 1,058) in which caregiving was measured either within (i.e., observed [in]sensitive care) or outside (i.e., childhood maltreatment) of the normative range of caregiving experiences. Results: Hierarchical moderated regression analyses in both longitudinal cohorts provided evidence that maternal insensitivity and experiences of maltreatment were prospectively associated with dismissing and preoccupied states of mind in adolescence, as hypothesized. Moreover, these associations were generally comparable in magnitude for African American and White/non-Hispanic participants and were not conditional on participants’ biological sex. Conclusions: Both maternal insensitivity and the experience of maltreatment increased risk for insecure attachment states of mind in adolescence. Moreover, our analyses provided little evidence that either participant race or participant sex assigned at birth moderated these nontrivial associations between measures of the quality of experienced caregiving and insecure attachment states of mind in adolescence. These findings provide support for the sensitivity hypothesis of attachment theory and inform the cultural universality hypothesis of attachment processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1322
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019



  • Adult Attachment Interview
  • attachment
  • attachment states of mind
  • cultural differences
  • maltreatment
  • sensitivity

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