Attachment quality assessed from children's family drawings links to child conduct problems and callous-unemotional behaviors.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Recently, there has been considerable research on the origins of childhood conduct problems (CP) and callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors. This study examined associations between children's attachment representations and CP and CU behaviors during middle childhood.


At 1st grade, 1,292 children (57% European American, 42.5% African American, 0.5% other race; 50.9% girls) completed a drawing of their family, which was coded by trained raters to assess attachment representations. Primary caregivers reported on children's CP and CU behaviors.


Children with disorganized representations showed more CP and CU behaviors than children with secure and resistant representations. They were also more likely than those with secure representations to show elevated CP without CU behaviors, CU behaviors only, and co-occurring CP and CU behaviors.


These findings provide support for attachment disorganization as a correlate of CP and CU behaviors and suggest that attachment representations are likely important proximal influences on children's behavior.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rehder, PD; Mills-Koonce, WR; Wagner, NJ; Zvara, B; Willoughby, MT

Published Date

  • June 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 23 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 239 - 256

PubMed ID

  • 31948359

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7363511

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1469-2988

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1461-6734

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/14616734.2020.1714676


  • eng