Attachment, personality and psychopathology in adolescence

Diana Shirley Rosenstein, University of Pennsylvania


The relationships among attachment classification, psychopathology and personality traits were examined in a group of psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents. In addition, the concordance between the adolescents' and their mothers' attachment classification was examined. The attachment organization of 60 adolescents admitted to a private psychiatric hospital for serious psychopathology and 27 of their mothers was assessed with the Adult Attachment Interview. Psychiatric diagnoses and symptomatology of the adolescents were evaluated with standardized clinical interviews, projective psychological tests, self-report and observer measures of symptomatology, and a self-report measure of personality traits. Consistent and predicted relationships emerged between the adolescents' attachment organization and psychopathology, symptomatology and personality traits. A high degree of concordance was found between maternal and adolescent attachment classification. The Autonomous adolescent group was highly coherent in its discussion of childhood experience but showed no association with psychopathology or personality. The adolescent group Dismissing of attachment was associated with Conduct and Substance Abuse Disorders, denial of psychiatric symptomatology, and narcissistic, antisocial and histrionic personality traits. The adolescent group Preoccupied by attachment was associated with Affective Disorders, overt disclosure of symptomatic distress and avoidant, dependent, schizotypal and dysthymic personality traits. Sex differences in both diagnosis and attachment classification were found, with males more likely to be Dismissing and Conduct Disordered or Substance Abusing and females more likely to be Preoccupied. These findings were interpreted in terms of differing styles of affect regulation and defensive bias resulting from the internalization of relational histories with parents.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Rosenstein, Diana Shirley, "Attachment, personality and psychopathology in adolescence" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9235194.