Earned-secure attachment status in retrospect and prospect

Glenn I. Roisman, Elena Padrón, L. Alan Sronfe, Byron Egeland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Past research with the Berkeley Adult Attachment Interview demonstrates that retrospectively defined earned-secures (who coherently describe negative childhood experiences) parent as effectively as do continuous-secures (who coherently describe positive childhood experiences), but manifest liabilities in the form of depressive symptomatology. This article presents data from a 23-year longitudinal study that replicate and extend prior research, testing a key premise that earned-secures so defined actually have a history of insecure attachments that change over time and/or endure consistently harsh or ineffective parenting in their youth. Discrepant with assumptions, retrospective earned-secures were not more likely than continuous-secures to have been anxiously attached in infancy and were observed in childhood and adolescence to have encountered among the most supportive and structured maternal parenting in a high-risk sample. Prospectively defined earnedsecures (operationalized using participants' infant attachment classifications) did indeed go on to have success in their close relationships, many without reporting relatively high levels of internalizing distress in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1204-1219
Number of pages16
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


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