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Attachment Insecurity Mediates the Effects of Intimate Partner Violence and Childhood Maltreatment on Depressive Symptoms in Adult Women

NCJ Number
Psychology of Violence Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: 2018 Pages: 460-469
Date Published
10 pages

This study examined whether Insecure attachment style may be one mechanism by which women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) and childhood maltreatment (CM) are at increased risk for depressive symptoms.


Women who have experienced high levels of both CM and IPV may be at the greatest risk for attachment insecurity and resulting depressive symptoms, as negative working models from CM may be exacerbated by IPV in adulthood. This effect is likely driven by emotional CM and IPV, rather than other types of abuse, as abusive insults may be internalized, resulting in greater attachment insecurity and depressive symptoms. A community sample of pregnant women (N = 206) completed self-report measures of IPV, CM, attachment insecurity, and depressive symptoms. The findings from structural equation modeling indicated that CM and IPV exhibited independent effects on depressive symptoms, and these associations were fully mediated by insecure attachment style. The interaction between CM and IPV did not predict attachment insecurity or depressive symptoms. Emotional and sexual CM as well as physical IPV predicted attachment insecurity, and emotional IPV had a direct effect on depression. The study concludes that although emotional CM and IPV had indirect and direct effects on depressive symptoms, respectively, multiple types of abuse were associated with attachment insecurity and resulting depression. Insecurely attached women may interpret IPV in a way that is congruent with their negative working models, resulting in depressive symptoms. In addition, IPV may work to maintain, rather than exacerbate, attachment insecurity resulting from CM. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018