Attachment security and disorganization in maltreating and high-risk families: a series of meta-analyses.

Research paper by Chantal C Cyr, Eveline M EM Euser, Marian J MJ Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marinus H MH Van Ijzendoorn

Indexed on: 28 Jan '10Published on: 28 Jan '10Published in: Development and psychopathology


The current meta-analytic study examined the differential impact of maltreatment and various socioeconomic risks on attachment security and disorganization. Fifty-five studies with 4,792 children were traced, yielding 59 samples with nonmaltreated high-risk children (n = 4,336) and 10 samples with maltreated children (n = 456). We tested whether proportions of secure versus insecure (avoidant, resistant, and disorganized) and organized versus disorganized attachments varied as a function of risks. Results showed that children living under high-risk conditions (including maltreatment studies) showed fewer secure (d = 0.67) and more disorganized (d = 0.77) attachments than children living in low-risk families. Large effects sizes were found for the set of maltreatment studies: maltreated children were less secure (d = 2.10) and more disorganized (d = 2.19) than other high-risk children (d = 0.48 and d = 0.48, respectively). However, children exposed to five socioeconomic risks (k = 8 studies, d = 1.20) were not significantly less likely to be disorganized than maltreated children. Overall, these meta-analyses show the destructive impact of maltreatment for attachment security as well as disorganization, but the accumulation of socioeconomic risks appears to have a similar impact on attachment disorganization.