A preliminary study of attachment, attention, and schizotypy in early adulthood
Both heritable neurocognitive impairments and interpersonal stressors are widely thought to be involved in the etiology of schizophrenia spectrum disorders. In this exploratory study, we measured attachment (as an index of chronic interpersonal stress) and schizotypal tendencies in 273 young adults. Of these participants, 57 also completed an adaptive-rate Continuous Performance Test, which measured ability to sustain attention (as an index of neurocognitive functioning). Psychometric properties of our measures and the relationships between attachment, attention, and schizotypy were then examined. Our analyses confirmed the usefulness of the classical trichotomous division of attachment into secure, avoidant, and anxious-ambivalent styles, as well as the presence of two dimensions of schizotypy underlying positive and negative (anhedonic) symptomatology. Four findings are central to our investigation. First, secure attachment was associated with low positive and low negative schizotypy; anxious attachment was associated with positive schizotypy, and avoidant attachment was associated with both positive and negative schizotypy. Second, when both negative and positive schizotypy were heightened, attentional performance was lowered. Third, no relationship between attachment and attention emerged. Fourth, attentional performance and attachment interacted to predict negative schizotypy, such that the presence of either good attentional performance or good attachment processes buffered individuals from anhedonia. Although methodological limitations qualify our findings, we suggest that, consistent with the diathesis-stress model of schizophrenia, future exploration of interactions between interpersonal and neurocognitive measures may provide important leads in both developmental psychopathology and normative development.
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