The relation between insecure attachment and posttraumatic stress: Early life versus adulthood traumas.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The present study examined the relations between insecure attachment and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms among community-dwelling older adults with exposure to a broad range of traumatic events. Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance predicted more severe symptoms of PTSD and explained unique variance in symptom severity when compared to other individual difference measures associated with an elevated risk of PTSD, including NEO neuroticism and event centrality. A significant interaction between the developmental timing of the trauma and attachment anxiety revealed that the relation between PTSD symptoms and attachment anxiety was stronger for individuals with current PTSD symptoms associated with early life traumas compared to individuals with PTSD symptoms linked to adulthood traumas. Analyses examining factors that account for the relation between insecure attachment and PTSD symptoms indicated that individuals with greater attachment anxiety reported stronger physical reactions to memories of their trauma and more frequent voluntary and involuntary rehearsal of their trauma memories. These phenomenological properties of trauma memories were in turn associated with greater PTSD symptom severity. Among older adults with early life traumas, only the frequency of involuntary recall partially accounted for the relation between attachment anxiety and PTSD symptoms. Our differential findings concerning early life versus adulthood trauma suggest that factors underlying the relation between attachment anxiety and PTSD symptoms vary according to the developmental timing of the traumatic exposure. Overall our results are consistent with attachment theory and with theoretical models of PTSD according to which PTSD symptoms are promoted by phenomenological properties of trauma memories.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ogle, CM; Rubin, DC; Siegler, IC

Published Date

  • July 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 7 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 324 - 332

PubMed ID

  • 26147517

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4493437

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1942-969X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/tra0000015


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States