Insecure attachment styles have received theoretical attention and some initial empirical support as mediators between childhood adverse experiences and psychotic phenomena; however, further specificity needs investigating. The present interview study aimed to examine (i) whether two forms of poor childhood care, namely parental antipathy and role reversal, were associated with subclinical positive and negative symptoms and schizophrenia-spectrum personality disorder (PD) traits, and (ii) whether such associations were mediated by specific insecure attachment styles.
A total of 214 nonclinical young adults were interviewed for subclinical symptoms (Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental States), schizophrenia-spectrum PDs (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II Disorders), poor childhood care (Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Interview), and attachment style (Attachment Style Interview). Participants also completed the Beck Depression Inventory-II and all the analyses were conducted partialling out the effects of depressive symptoms.
Both parental antipathy and role reversal were associated with subclinical positive symptoms and with paranoid and schizotypal PD traits. Role reversal was also associated with subclinical negative symptoms. Angry-dismissive attachment mediated associations between antipathy and subclinical positive symptoms and both angry-dismissive and enmeshed attachment mediated associations of antipathy with paranoid and schizotypal PD traits. Enmeshed attachment mediated associations of role reversal with paranoid and schizotypal PD traits.
Attachment theory can inform lifespan models of how adverse developmental environments may increase the risk for psychosis. Insecure attachment provides a promising mechanism for understanding the development of schizophrenia-spectrum phenomenology and may offer a useful target for prophylactic intervention.