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Attachment Insecurity and Abuse in Adolescent Romantic Relationships Erin Miga, Joseph P. Allen & Nell Manning University of Virginia This study was made possible by funding from the National Institute of Mental Health awarded to Joseph P. Allen, Principal Investigator (Grant# R01-MH58066) Abstract 3) Teen romantic avoidance predicted increases in romantic This study examines the association between attachment insecurity and physical and psychological maltreatment in adolescent romantic relationships. Data were collected Method partner criticism of the teen (β=. 39, p<.0001)( see Table 2). 4) Partner anxiety predicted teen report of increases in from 98 adolescents at age 14, and again at adolescent mean age of 18. Higher levels Participants partner physical abuse and blame during conflict(β=.26, of adolescent attachment preoccupation was associated with perpetration of Data were collected from a larger multi-method, multi-reporter, longitudinal study p<.05). psychological abuse against their partners. Higher levels of adolescent dismissing attachment was associated with being the target of psychological abuse from their of adolescent development in the context of peer and family relationships partners. The dyadic interaction of adolescents scoring lower on romantic 98 target adolescents (41 male, 57 female) were first interviewed at age 14.3 Table 2. Hierarchical Regression Analysis predicting Teen Report of Romantic Partner Criticism at Age 18 attachment avoidance and partners scoring higher on romantic attachment anxiety Target teens: 56% European American and 44% minority or mixed ethnic group β entry β final Δ R2 Total R2 Step I. predicted higher levels of teens’ physical abuse towards their partners. Adolescents were then re-interviewed at age 18.3 with their romantic partners Minority Gender .10 -.26** .04 -.23** Couples had been dating for an average of 15 months Statistics from step. .08* .08* Introduction Procedures Step IV. Teen Self Report of Avoidance .39**** .39**** .15**** .23**** Wave 1: Adolescents interviewed at approximately 14 years of age. Note. * p<..05 ** p < .01. *** p < .001 ****p<.0001. N = 98 Background • Intimate partner violence is a relatively common phenomenon among adolescent Wave 2: Adolescents and their romantic partners re-interviewed at approximately 18 couples: found in 10-25% of couples in large-scale studies. years of age. 5) Teen romantic avoidance moderated the relationship between partner anxiety and teen physical abuse. Romantic This trend is of particular concern because: Measures partner anxiety predicted increases in teen physical abuse • Romantic relationships play a crucial role in adolescent development (Furman, 2002). Adult Attachment Interview and Q-set (AAI, George, Kaplan, & Main, 1996; Q-sort, Kobak et al, when teen avoidance was low, while more avoidant teens 1993). Participants were asked to explain their childhood relationships with each of their parents and to recall were unaffected by their partners’ anxious attachment. examples supporting their depictions. Individuals were assigned adult attachment classifications based on the • Aggression in adolescent intimate relationships can set the stage for volatile marital coherence of their responses. The Attachment Q-sort procedure was used to determine a continuous score of both and parent-child relationships in the future. the preoccupied and dismissing attachment dimensions. Conflict in Relationships (Wolfe, Reitzel-Jaffe, Gough, & Wekerle, 1994). Teens and their romantic Attachment Theory partners reported on the frequency of their partner’s use of physically abusive, sexually coercive, and emotionally • “Intimacy anger”: violence that men exhibit in an effort to maintain proximity to manipulative tactics during conflict in the past year. their partner when they perceive their romantic attachment relationship to be Multi-Item Measure of Adult Romantic Attachment (Brennan, Clark & Shaver, 1998). threatened (Dutton, Saunders, Starzomski, & Bartholomew, 1994). This study used the “avoidance” and “anxiety” subscales to assess teen and romantic partner’s behavioral and emotional attachment styles in romantic relationships. Insecure-preoccupied attachment: The Psychological Maltreatment Experience Scale (Petretic-Jackson, Betz, & Pitman, 1995). • Preoccupied individuals may exhibit vacillations between intensely positive and Individuals reported on the frequency of their partners’ use of verbally abusive tactics. negation emotions; excessive dependence on attachment relationships Insecure-dismissing attachment: • Dismissing individuals may withdraw during periods of intense emotion; minimize Results Conclusions importance of intimacy, emotional experiences, and communication in relationships Hierarchical regression analyses using Full Information Maximum Likelihood revealed that: •Results provide evidence for preoccupied and dismissing working models of 1)Teen attachment preoccupation at age 14 predicted partner attachment serving as unique risk factors for later perpetration and victimization of Adolescent partner violence as a dyadic process: psychological abuse in adolescent romantic relationships. • Females and males exhibit comparable rates of aggressive behaviors, albeit differing report of increases in teen verbal abuse at age 18, after in intensity (Archer, 2000), yet most studies place an exclusive focus on males as sole controlling for insecure-dismissing attachment ((β=. 41, •Results highlight the importance of viewing relationship violence as a dyadic perpetrators of partner aggression. p<.01). process; severity of aggressive behavior may vary as a function of each partner’s romantic attachment style. Hypotheses Table 1. Hierarchical Regression Analysis predicting Romantic Partner Report of Teen The current study uses hierarchical regression analyses to explore the following Verbal Abuse at Age 18 •Lack of gender differences found for perpetration of partner violence supports β entry β final Δ R2 Total R2 questions: Step I. previous findings for comparable rates of aggression across gender. 1.Does preoccupied/anxious attachment serve as a unique risk factor for the Minority Gender .03 .15 .02 .00 perpetration of physical and psychological aggression against one’s partner? Statistics from step. .02 .02 •Exhibiting avoidant strategies in the face of conflict may be a protective factor Step II. Adolescent Dismissing Attachment .01 -.24 00 .02 against exhibiting physical violence towards one’s partner. 2.Does dismissing/avoidant attachment predict one’s risk for being victimized Step III. Adolescent Preoccupied Attachment by intimate partner violence? Note. * p < .05. ** p < .01. N = 98 .41** .41** .12** .14** References 3.Does the interaction of differing insecure romantic attachment styles predict Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review.Psychological Bulletin, 126(5), 651. Brennan, K.A., Clark, C.L., Shaver, P.R. (1998). Self-report measurement of adult attachment. In Simpson, J.A. & Rholes, W.(Eds.), Attachment Theory and Close Relationships, (46-76). New more severe forms of partner aggression among adolescent couples? 2) Teen dismissing attachment at age 14 predicted increases York: Guilford Press. Dutton, D. G., Saunders, K., Starzomski, A., & Bartholomew, K. (1994). Intimacy-anger and insecure attachment as precursors of abuse in intimate relationships. Journal of Applied Social in romantic partner use of verbal abuse against the teen at Psychology, 24(15), 1367-1386. Furman, W. (2002). The emerging field of adolescent romantic relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5), 177. age 18 (β=.28 , p <.05). George, C., Kaplan, N., & Main, M.(1996). Adult attachment interview. Unpublished interview, University of California, Berkeley. Kobak, R. (1989). The attachment interview q-set. Unpublished document, University of Virginia. Petretic-Jackson, P., Betz, W., & Pitman, L. The Psychological Maltreatment Experience Scale (PMES): Assessing psychological maltreatment in childhood and adolescence. In Vandecreek, L. & Knapp, S. (Eds), Innovations in clinical practice: A source book (331-443). Florida: Professional Resource Press/ Professional Resource Exchange, Inc. Wolfe, D.A., Reitzel-Jaffe, D., Gough, R., & Wekerle, C. (1994). Conflicts in relationships: Measuring physical and sexual coercion among youth. Unpublished manuscript, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.
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