In an Idealized World: Can Discrepancies Across Self-Reported Parental Care and High Betrayal Trauma During Childhood Predict Infant Attachment Avoidance in the Next Generation?

Rosemary E. Bernstein, Heidemarie K. Laurent, Erica D. Musser, Jeffery R. Measelle, Jennifer C. Ablow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Adult caregivers' idealization of their parents as assessed by the Adult Attachment Interview is a risk factor for the intergenerational transmission of the insecure-avoidant attachment style. This study evaluated a briefer screening approach for identifying parental idealization, testing the utility of prenatal maternal self-report measures of recalled betrayal trauma and parental care in childhood to predict observationally assessed infant attachment avoidance with 58 mother-infant dyads 18 months postpartum. In a logistic regression that controlled for maternal demographics, prenatal psychopathology, and postnatal sensitivity, the interaction between women's self-reported childhood high betrayal trauma and the level of care provided to them by their parents was the only significant predictor of 18-month infant security versus avoidance. Results suggest that betrayal trauma and recalled parental care in childhood can provide a means of identifying caregivers whose infant children are at risk for avoidant attachment, potentially providing an efficient means for scientific studies and clinical intervention aimed at preventing the intergenerational transmission of attachment problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-545
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Trauma and Dissociation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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