The implications of emotional security theory for understanding and treating childhood psychopathology

Patrick T. Davies, Marcia A. Winter, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Understanding why interparental difficulties pose a risk to children in families experiencing domestic violence is an urgent task for ameliorating childhood psychopathology, particularly in light of the paucity of knowledge on the unfolding mediating mechanisms and the potentiating and protective conditions that underlie the multiplicity of pathways between domestic violence and child maladjustment. Toward addressing this significant gap, this paper examines how the emotional security theory (EST) may foster advances in our understanding of the genesis, course, and treatment of children's psychological problems in families experiencing domestic violence. Following an overview of the theoretical assumptions and significance of translating the emotional security theory to high-risk contexts, we address how children's difficulties in preserving security may emerge in the face of domestic violence and accompanying forms of severe family adversity, and illustrate the implications of emotional insecurity for childhood psychopathology in homes characterized by domestic violences. In the final section, we address how the EST may be useful in informing public policy and intervention initiatives designed to reduce the burden of mental illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-735
Number of pages29
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2006


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