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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2013 March;54(1):59-69


language: English

Attachment and social understanding in young school-age children: an investigation using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task

Zaccagnino M. 1, Cussino M. 1, Callerame C. 1, Actis Perinetti B. 1, Veglia F. 1, Green J. 2

1 Department of Psychology, University of Turin, Turin, Italy; 2 Department of Psychology, University of Manchester, Manchester, England


Aim: Attachment research suggests that insecure and disorganized patterns of early attachment with caregivers represent a risk factor for difficulties in later social functioning beyond the home environment; but the detailed mechanisms mediating this association have been less explored. We undertook a within-child cross sectional cross domain study in the early school years, comparing a child’s representation of attachment relationship with their primary caregiver to their social attributions and information processing in relation to peers.
Methods: Fifty-five children from primary schools in Northern Italy were studied using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task and the Dodge Social Stories. Analyses were controlled for child gender, age and school performance.
Results: Children with secure based attachment representation showed greater competency in represented social problem solving with peers. Children with disorganized attachment representation showed more hostile attributional bias and aggressive patterns of response to social situations. Children with insecure ambivalence attachment represented more aggressive responses.
Conclusion: These findings suggest some cross domain consistency between a child’s representation of care giving and social cognition in relation to peers. They provide evidence of a mechanism by which early attachment experiences may inform later social functioning. Control for developmental variables in the analysis suggests that this is not simply a non specific developmental effect.

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