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Negative childhood experiences and adult love relationships: The role of internal working models of attachment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Gerard McCarthy, Barbara Maughan

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445 - 461
Number of pages17
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

King's Authors


This study investigated links between internal working models of attachment and the quality of adult love relationships in a high risk sample of women (n=34), all of whom reported negative parenting in childhood. Half of the sample was identified as having a history of satisfying adult love relationships, while the remainder had experienced ongoing adult relationship problems. Measures of internal working models of attachment were made using the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). A strong association was found between attachment classifications and the quality of adult love relationships. In addition, women with satisfying love relationships demonstrated significantly higher coherence of mind ratings than those with poor relationship histories. Insecure working models of attachment were associated with problems in adult love relationships. Although secure/autonomous attachment status was linked to optimal adult relationship outcomes, some women with a history of satisfying love relationships had insecure working models of attachment. These results suggest that the ways that adults process early experiences may influence later psychosocial functioning.

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