Depressive Symptoms predict Less Secure Attachment - A Bidirectional Investigation of Attachment and Internalizing Symptoms in Middle Childhood
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- Institutt for psykologi 
Attachment theory posits that repeated caregiving-experiences with parents influence children’s formation of (in)secure attachment, which in turn impact children’s perceptions of themselves and the world. Specifically, attachment theory proposes that less securely attached children risk developing less healthy socioemotional habits, including internalizing symptoms. Internalizing problems might also negatively impact children’s attachment security, as they can evoke strong attachment needs that parents have difficulties accommodating. Children’s attachment security is also theorized to become more fixed as children mature, as a way for the developing child to adapt to their surroundings. A considerable amount of research has explored whether children’s attachment security predict internalizing symptomatology, but surprisingly little is known about whether and how internalizing problems might influence attachment security. On top of that, middle childhood is a particularly understudied period in the research field on attachment security and developmental psychopathology. This thesis aims to contribute to the literature by examining reciprocal relations between attachment insecurity and symptoms of internalizing problems (i.e., symptoms of anxiety and depression) in late middle childhood (from ages 10 to 12 years) in a Norwegian community sample (n = 709). Because potential bidirectional relations between attachment security and internalizing symptomatology relies on the degree to which attachment security can be modified, stability of attachment is also assessed. Attachment security was measured with Security Scale, symptoms of anxiety and depression was measured with the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment. I hypothesized that: i) greater attachment insecurity at age 10 predict more symptoms of anxiety and depression at age 12, ii) more symptoms of anxiety and depression at age 10 predict greater attachment insecurity at age 12, iii) attachment security is moderately stable from ages 10 to 12 years. Contrary to the first hypothesis, attachment security did not predict levels of internalizing problems from ages 10 to 12 years. Support for the second hypothesis was mixed: anxiety-symptoms did not predict attachment security, but more depressive symptoms at age 10 predicted less secure attachment at age 12. In line with the third hypothesis, attachment security was moderately stable from ages 10 to 12 years. Implications of the findings are discussed.