Longitudinal association between infant disorganized attachment and childhood posttraumatic stress symptoms

Helen Z. Macdonald, Marjorie Beeghly, Wanda Grant-Knight, Marilyn Augustyn, Ryan W. Woods, Howard Cabral, Ruth Rose-Jacobs, Glenn N. Saxe, Deborah A. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether children with a history of disorganized attachment in infancy were more likely than children without a history of disorganized attachment to exhibit symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at school age following trauma exposure. The sample consisted of 78 8.5-year-old children from a larger, ongoing prospective study evaluating the effects of intrauterine cocaine exposure (IUCE) on children's growth and development from birth to adolescence. At the 12-month visit, children's attachment status was scored from videotapes of infant-caregiver dyads in Ainsworth's strange situation. At the 8.5-year visit, children were administered the Violence Exposure Scale - Revised, a child-report trauma exposure inventory, and the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents by an experienced clinical psychologist masked to children's attachment status and IUCE status. Sixteen of the 78 children (21%) were classified as insecure-disorganized/insecure-other at 12 months. Poisson regressions covarying IUCE, gender, and continuity of maternal care indicated that disorganized attachment status at 12 months, compared with nondisorganized attachment status, significantly predicted both higher avoidance cluster PTSD symptoms and higher reexperiencing cluster PTSD symptoms. These findings suggest that the quality of early dyadic relationships may be linked to differences in children's later development of posttraumatic stress symptoms following a traumatic event.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-508
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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