Childhood trauma, attachment and psychopathology: A correlation network approach

Laura Rosa Midolo, Gianluca Santoro, Erika Ferrante, Paola Pellegriti, Santi Russo, Antonino Costanzo, Adriano Schimmenti


Consistent evidence supports the view that childhood trauma is linked with insecure attachment styles and psychopathology. However, it is a matter of debate how different forms of child maltreatment may relate with dimensions of anxiety and avoidance in attachment relationships and may foster specific configurations of clinical symptoms. Accordingly, examining the associations between childhood trauma, insecure attachment and psychopathology from a correlation network perspective may serve to fill a relevant gap in the literature. Three-hundred fifty-two adults aged between 18 and 73 years old (M= 32.70; SD = 11.72) completed measures on child maltreatment, attachment styles and psychopathology. A regularized partial correlation network was estimated to examine the relationships between the three constructs. The network showed 101 out of 190 nonzero correlations linking childhood traumatic experiences, anxious and avoidant attachment dimensions, and clinical symptoms. The analysis of the network showed that being exposed to emotional abuse and emotional neglect increased the risk of being exposed to other types of childhood trauma, such as physical abuse. Anxious attachment was more strongly linked to child maltreatment and psychopathology than avoidant attachment. Suicidal ideation and maladaptive personality functioning were the clinical symptoms most strongly connected with the other variables in the network. These findings might be relevant for the assessment and treatment of individuals who display clinical problems related to insecure attachment and early relational trauma.


Childhood trauma; Psychopathology; Attachment; Correlation network.

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