Attachment problems in childhood and the development of anxiety in adolescents: A systematic review of longitudinal and prospective studies

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Mental Health and Prevention, 2019, 14
Issue Date:
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© 2019 Elsevier GmbH The association between early relationships and the experience of infant and mother, and the subsequent development of the child through their life span has long been studied. Attachment, as a most prominent construct in early child development, has been the focal point of investigation since the inception of the theoretical concept by Bowlby. In recent years, research has expanded to examine the effect of attachment on the mental health and socio-emotional development of young children and their on-going adjustment into adolescence. However, most studies in the field concentrated on the relationship of childhood attachment and internalising symptoms as a generic assessment of mental health problems. To provide more precise information on the effect of attachment insecurity on individual mental health problems, a systematic review (the first in a series) of available longitudinal and prospective studies was conducted. 11 studies were identified after an extensive search of the literature in accordance to the PRISMA guidelines. Of these, 4 satisfied all selection criteria and provided sufficient data on the effect of attachment insecurity during infancy or early childhood and anxiety in adolescence. Information was extracted and analysed systematically from each study and tabulated. The overall results obtained from these studies indicated a significant and possible causal relationship between attachment insecurity during infancy or early childhood and the development of anxiety in adolescence. These results were discussed in light of theoretical and practical preventive implications.
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