This study sought to identify ways in which adolescent attachment security, as assessed via the Adult Attachment Interview, is manifest in qualities of the secure base provided by the mother– adolescent relationship. Assessments included data coded from mother–adolescent interactions, test-based data, and adolescent self-reports obtained from an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of moderately at-risk 9th and 10th graders. This study found several robust markers of adolescent attachment security in the mother–adolescent relationship. Each of these markers was found to contribute unique variance to explaining adolescent security, and in combination, they accounted for as much as 40% of the raw variance in adolescent security. These findings suggest that security is closely connected to the workings of the mother–adolescent relationship via a secure-base phenomenon, in which the teen can explore independence in thought and speech from the secure base of a maternal relationship characterized by maternal attunement to the adolescent and maternal supportiveness.
A diathesis-stress interaction model is used to describe multifinality in adolescent internalizing and risky behavioral outcomes. Problematic behavior associated with adolescent insecure preoccupation (a diathesis) was expected to interact with the level of maternal autonomous discourse (a stressor) to predict specific adolescent outcomes. Assessments of adolescent preoccupied attachment organization, observations of maternal displays of autonomy in mother–adolescent interactions, and adolescent reports of internalizing symptoms and risky behaviors were obtained at age 16. As predicted, maternal autonomy in the mother–adolescent relationship helped to explain multifinality in dysfunctional symptoms among preoccupied adolescents. Adolescent preoccupation was more strongly linked to internalizing behavior when mothers demonstrated low levels of autonomy in interactions with their adolescents and more strongly linked to risky behavior when mothers displayed extremely high levels of autonomy. Implications for autonomy processes in increasing our understanding of how adolescent insecure–preoccupation relates to profiles of specific problems during adolescence are discussed as is the importance of exploring the role of attachment in different contexts.
This study examines links between attachment states of mind and relationship schemas in a sample of 40 young adults, half of whom were hospitalized as adolescents for psychiatric treatment. Participants were interviewed about their closest relationships, and, using the Core Conflictual Relationship Theme method, their narratives about these relationships were analyzed for the relative frequency with which they expressed wishes for closeness and for autonomy in relation to others. Participants were also administered the Adult Attachment Interview and were classified with respect to security of attachment. Security of attachment was associated with the relative frequency with which participants expressed wishes for autonomy in their narratives about close relationships, even after accounting for current levels of psychological functioning and history of serious psychopathology in adolescence. Security of attachment was not associated with the relative frequency with which participants expressed wishes for closeness. The study suggests that core relational wishes for autonomy are linked specifically with subtypes of insecure attachment. These findings extend what is known about connections between the representation of early attachment relationships and the wishes and needs expressed in current relationships with significant others.