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The power of connection : the relation between attachment and resiliency in a sample of high risk adolescents Buote, Denise

Abstract

The present study provided a unique window into the relation of attachment avoidance (preference for emotional distance) and attachment anxiety (desire for relationships but fear of rejection) as measured by The Comprehensive Adolescent-Parent Attachment Inventory (CAPAI; Moretti, McKay, & Holland, 2000) to dimensions of resiliency among 94 adolescents living in the inner city. Specifically, attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety were examined in relation to the following dimensions of resiliency: optimism, self-efficacy, relationships with peers, relationships with adults as measured by the Resiliency Inventory (RI; Noam & Goldstein, 1998; Song, 2003) number of adults deemed very important to the adolescent (Antonucci, 1986), self-reported school grades, and externalizing problems (YSR; Achenbach, 1991). These dimensions were assessed via a self-report survey which students completed during one class period. Through a series of multiple regressions, results revealed that attachment has compensatory but not protective effects on the outcomes of optimism, self-efficacy, relationships with adults, peer relationships, externalizing problems, and number of adults identified as being very important in the adolescent’s life. Further to this, following research conducted by Cowen et al. (1997), those participants who had experienced four or more uncontrollable adverse life events (stress) were divided into two groups: stress-affected, those who had high levels of self-reported externalizing problems (n = 26), and stress-resilient, those who had low levels of self-reported externalizing problems (n = 19). Findings revealed significant differences between the two groups. Specifically, adolescents in the stress-resilient group scored significantly higher on dimensions of relationships with adults, peer relationships, optimism and number of adults identified as being important in comparison to those in the stress-affected group. Additionally, stress-resilient adolescents scored significantly lower on the attachment avoidance dimension of The Comprehensive Adolescent-Parent Attachment Inventory (CAPAI; Moretti, McKay, & Holland, 2000). Collectively, these findings have implications for the understanding the role attachment may play in pathways to positive adaptation among at-risk adolescents. Throughout all analyses, attachment avoidance emerged as having deleterious effects on the social and emotional functioning of high risk adolescents.

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