Psihologija (2013-01-01)

Attachment disorganization in different clinical groups: What underpins unresolved attachment?

  • Juen Florian,
  • Arnold Lisa,
  • Meissner Dominik,
  • Nolte Tobias,
  • Buchheim Anna

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 46, no. 2
pp. 127 – 141


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This paper summarizes findings and clinical implications of research on attachment disorganization in diverse clinical groups. Disorganized/unresolved attachment is overrepresented in these groups compared to healthy control participants, but disorder specific characteristics of this attachment pattern are still poorly understood. The focus of this study was to explore defensive processes in participants whose narratives were classified as disorganized/unresolved using the Adult Attachment Projective Picture System (AAP). Besides the predominance of disorganized attachment, clinical participants demonstrated more “segregated system material” especially in stories representing aloneness and more “Personal Experience material” compared to healthy individuals. Within the disorganized/ unresolved clinical individuals, BPD and PTSD patients showed the highest proportion of attachment disorganization and were less able to use other attachment-related defenses to maintain organized. Furthermore, PTSD patients were emotionally overwhelmed by the projective attachment scenes compared to the other clinical groups as indexed by an incapacity to complete sections of the AAP. BPD and addicted patients were characterized by a high degree of self-other boundary confusion. Depressive and schizophrenic patients showed a high overall defensive intensity to remain organized.