Maltreatment/ Neglect and Disorganized Attachment (Madelyn King, Post #2)

Since we will be discussing attachment styles the first part of next week I will be discussing an article that addresses the connection between maltreatment/ neglect of infants and insecure/disorganized attachment styles. Disorganized attachment according to our text is the attachment pattern reflecting the greatest insecurity, characterizing infants who show confused, contradictory behaviors when reunited with the parent after a separation. For example a disorganized infant who is reunited with its caregiver may approach them with a flat, depressed affect and may display dazed expressions. These infants also show other strange behaviors such as “freezing”. The infant/ toddler with engage in play and instantly stop mid action as if they have forgotten entirely what it was they were doing, or completely lost interest. According to the text this can lead to ambivalence, confusion, and depression in intimate relationships later in life.
The study I looked at was conducted by J.C. Baer and C.D. Martinez at Rutgers University in New Jersey. This study was a meta-analysis of eight others studies all containing infants under 48 months exposed to different types of maltreatment. The strange situation is used, all had comparison groups and all studies contained sufficient data for meta- analysis. The majority of families were ethnically diverse, poor, involved in some levels of abuse/ neglect and almost all were involved with Division of Child and Family Services (DCSF).
Results of this research supported previous research in that disorganized attachment styles were directly linked to abuse/ neglect. One particular study estimated that up to 80% of maltreated children presented with a disorganized attachment style ( Chicchetti and Barnett, 1991; Beeghly and Chicchetti, 1994; Barnett et al 1997; as seen in Baer, Martinez, 2006). Impoverishment was a major factor in the disorganized attachment style as well as how many children were present within the family, which is not surprising because abuse and neglect are often exacerbated by these factors. A subsample was also taken during this study to address the effects of varied abuse as well as the number of abuse incidents. Different types of maltreatment and the number of incidents were shown to effect the severity of the disorganized attachment style.
This study carries great importance to those who work with children such as Psychologists and Social Workers.Since majority of these children were some how involved in DCFS or other services it is important to understand the impact of disorganized attachment on reunification and future relationships. This type of attachment is shown to act as a barrier to renunciation efforts following DCFS involvement and foster care placement (Newcomb and Locke, 2001; Cordero, 2004; as seen in Baer and Martinez, 2006). This study shows a very high occurrence of disorganized attachment within a population highly involved in various custodial and child placement services. Given the attachments relationship to reunification, this study could have many implications when attempting to solve or lower the burden on the agencies working with abusive or neglectful families. Funding for increased education and assistance for these caregivers could lead to higher levels of secure attachment in their children, greatly decreasing the financial and worker burden for agencies like DCFS, not to mention the improvements in these children’s lives and futures.

(Madelyn KIng)


Baer, J.C.; Marinez, C.D., (2006). Child Maltreatment and Insecure Attachment: a meta-analysis. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, Vol.24, No. 3, pp. 187-197

Beeghly, M. & Cicchetti D. (1994). Child maltreatment, attachment, and the self system: emergence of an internal state lexicon in toddlers at high social risk. Development and Psychopathology, 6, 5–30.

Barnett, D., Ganiban, J. & Cicchetti, D. (1997). Maltreatment, emotional reactivity, and the development of type D attachments from 12 to 24 months of age. Unpublished manuscript.

Cicchetti, D. & Barnett, D. (1991). Attachment organization in maltreated preschoolers. Development and
Psychopathology, 3, 397–411.

Cordero A.E. (2004). When family reunification works: data-mining foster care records. Families in Society:
The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 85, 571–580.

Newcomb, M. & Locke, T. (2001). Intergenerational cycle of maltreatment: a popular concept obscured by
methodological limitations. Child Abuse, 25, 1219–1240.


~ by littlegoose08 on September 19, 2009.

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