When Adolescents Disagree With Others About Their Symptoms: Differences in Attachment Organization as an Explanation of Discrepancies Between Adolescent-, Parent-, and Peer-Reports of Behavior Problems

Abstract:

This study examined whether attachment theory could be used to shed light on the often high degree of discordance between self- and observer-ratings of behavioral functioning and symptomatology. Interview-based assessments of attachment organization, using the Adult Attachment Interview, were examined as predictors of the lack of agreement between self- and other-reports of behavioral and emotional problems among 176 moderately at-risk adolescents. Lack of agreement was measured in terms of concordance of adolescent- and parent- or close friend-report on equivalent measures of behavioral and emotional adjustment. Insecure-dismissing attachment was linked to less agreement in absolute terms between self- and mother-reports of externalizing symptoms, and between adolescent- and close friend-reports of behavioral conduct. Insecure-preoccupied attachment was associated with higher levels of adolescent reporting of internalizing and externalizing symptoms relative to parent-reports of adolescent symptomatology. The findings suggest that attachment organization may be one factor that accounts for individual differences in the degree of discordance between self- and other-reports of symptoms in adolescence.

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