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Configurations of mother-child and father-child attachment as predictors of internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems: An individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis.

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Schuengel, Carlo 
Verhage, Marije L 
van IJzendoorn, Marinus H  ORCID logo
Sagi-Schwartz, Abraham 


An unsettled question in attachment theory and research is the extent to which children's attachment patterns with mothers and fathers jointly predict developmental outcomes. In this study, we used individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis to assess whether early attachment networks with mothers and fathers are associated with children's internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. Following a pre-registered protocol, data from 9 studies and 1,097 children (mean age: 28.67 months) with attachment classifications to both mothers and fathers were included in analyses. We used a linear mixed effects analysis to assess differences in children's internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems as assessed via the average of both maternal and paternal reports based on whether children had two, one, or no insecure (or disorganized) attachments. Results indicated that children with an insecure attachment relationship with one or both parents were at higher risk for elevated internalizing behavioral problems compared with children who were securely attached to both parents. Children whose attachment relationships with both parents were classified as disorganized had more externalizing behavioral problems compared to children with either one or no disorganized attachment relationship with their parents. Across attachment classification networks and behavioral problems, findings suggest (a) an increased vulnerability to behavioral problems when children have insecure or disorganized attachment to both parents, and (b) that mother-child and father-child attachment relationships may not differ in the roles they play in children's development of internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems.



attachment, externalizing, father, internalizing, mother, network, Child, Preschool, Fathers, Female, Humans, Male, Mother-Child Relations, Mothers, Parents, Problem Behavior

Journal Title

New Dir Child Adolesc Dev

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Hindawi Limited