The roles of attachment and emotion dysregulation in the association between childhood maltreatment and PTSD in an inner-city sample

Thomas M. Crow, Kenneth N. Levy, Bekh Bradley, Negar Fani, Abigail Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Most people will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, but only a subset (<10%) will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Objective: To facilitate prevention and intervention of PTSD, it is important to understand how risk and resilience factors interact with one another to explain individual differences in risk for PTSD, especially in underprivileged groups, who often experience greater burden of trauma and PTSD. Method: The current study utilized multiple and moderated regression to examine the relation between childhood maltreatment and adulthood PTSD risk in the context of various attachment patterns and emotion dysregulation in a sample (n = 856) of mostly low-income, African American participants. Results: Moderation analysis indicated that the strongest association between self-reported childhood maltreatment and PTSD symptoms was manifest in participants reporting the highest levels of both attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance (b = 0.22, 95% CI [0.15, 0.29], p <.001), whereas, among those low on both these dimensions (i.e., more securely attached participants), there was no significant association between childhood maltreatment and current PTSD (b = 0.07, 95% CI [−0.01, 0.14], p =.07). Separately, multiple regression predicting current PTSD symptoms revealed an effect size for the two attachment dimensions similar to that of emotion dysregulation, while controlling for childhood maltreatment. Conclusions: These findings suggest more secure attachment may buffer against the deleterious effects of childhood maltreatment, and both attachment difficulties and emotion dysregulation serve as robust correlates of adulthood PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105139
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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