From the Cradle to the Grave: The Effect of Adverse Caregiving Environments on Attachment and Relationships Throughout the Lifespan

Colleen Doyle, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Scopus citations


This article reviews research examining the effects of adverse early caregiving on relationships throughout the lifespan. Central attachment constructs are summarized and integrated into a review of research on the long-term effects of institutional rearing and child maltreatment. Findings are interpreted within the organizational perspective on development, which conceptualizes attachment as a stage-salient task of infancy that influences the reorganization of adaptive/maladaptive functioning around subsequent stage-salient tasks. Children who experience adverse early caregiving are more likely to exhibit aberrant attachment behaviors, deficits in social-emotional competencies, and persisting difficulties in social functioning and relationship outcomes. Disorganized attachment behavior stemming from adverse early caregiving has been a major focus of this work. Intervention efforts that target mental representations related to attachment relationships can facilitate improved social functioning. Clinical implications of this work are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-217
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Psychology: Science and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017



  • attachment
  • caregiving
  • institutional care
  • maltreatment
  • randomized control trial interventions
  • relationships

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