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01-10-2010 | Uitgave 7/2010

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 7/2010

Attachment and Autism: Parental Attachment Representations and Relational Behaviors in the Parent-Child Dyad

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology > Uitgave 7/2010
Lynn Seskin, Eileen Feliciano, Gil Tippy, Ruby Yedloutschnig, K. Mark Sossin, Anastasia Yasik


While attachment research has demonstrated that parents’ internal working models of attachment relationships tend to be transmitted to their children, affecting children’s developmental trajectories, this study specifically examines associations between adult attachment status and observable parent, child, and dyadic behaviors among children with autism and associated neurodevelopmental disorders of relating and communicating. The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) was employed to derive parental working models of attachment relationships. The Functional Emotional Assessment Scale (FEAS) was used to determine the quality of relational and functional behaviors in parents and their children. The sample included parents and their 4- to 16-year-old children with autism and associated neurodevelopmental disorders. Hypothesized relationships between AAI classifications and FEAS scores were supported. Significant correlations were found between AAI classification and FEAS scores, indicating that children with autism spectrum disorders whose parents demonstrated secure attachment representations were better able to initiate and respond in two-way pre-symbolic gestural communication; organize two-way social problem-solving communication; and engage in imaginative thinking, symbolic play, and verbal communication. These findings lend support to the relevance of the parent’s state of mind pertaining to attachment status to child and parent relational behavior in cases wherein the child has been diagnosed with autism or an associated neurodevelopmental disorder of relating and communicating. A model emerges from these findings of conceptualizing relationships between parental internal models of attachment relationships and parent-child relational and functional levels that may aid in differentiating interventions.

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