Prediction of Internalizing and Externalizing Problems from Age 6 Attachment Behavior among French Canadian Children

Insecure attachment behaviors during children’s first year have often been viewed as precursors to later problems. However, relations between later attachment behaviors and subsequent problems have received less far attention.

To test relations between classification of children’s attachment behaviors at age 6 and problems 2 years later, a team of Canadian researchers first conducted laboratory tests of children’s separation-reunion behavior (Moss et al., 2006). The children were Francophone residents of Montreal. When the children were 8 years old, their mothers rated them on the CBCL, their teachers rated them on the School Behavior Questionnaire, and they were administered the Dominic Questionnaire, which uses cartoon drawings to depict emotional and behavioral aspects of DSM-III-R criteria for disorders that are prevalent at ages 6 to 11 years.

For the 96 children with complete data, Externalizing scores based on an aggregation of mother, teacher, and self-reports were significantly higher for children who had previously been classified as having insecure-ambivalent or insecure-controlling attachments than for children who had been classified as having secure attachments.

Finer-grained analyses of CBCL syndrome scales showed that children who had been classified as insecure-ambivalent or insecure-controlling scored significantly higher on the Aggressive Behavior syndrome than children who had been classified as having secure attachments. Furthermore, insecure-controlling children scored significantly higher on the Anxious/Depressed syndrome than securely attached children.

Across all parent, teacher, and self-report measures, insecure-controlling children were significantly more often identified as categorically deviant than were securely attached children, whereas avoidant and insecure-ambivalent children did not differ significantly from the other groups with respect to this categorical definition of deviance.

Reference: Moss, E., Smolla, N., Cyr, C., DuBois-Comtois, K., Mazzarello, T., & Berthiaume, C. (2006). Attachment and behavior problems in middle childhood as reported by adult and child informants. Development and Psychopathology, 18, 425-444.