Advances in Clinical Child Psychology by Dante Cicchetti, Sheree L. Toth, Michael Lynch (auth.),

By Dante Cicchetti, Sheree L. Toth, Michael Lynch (auth.), Thomas H. Ollendick, Ronald J. Prinz (eds.)

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Supporting evidence that points to the potentiaHy deleterious effect of maltreated children' s early representational models on their subsequent relationships with others can be seen in reports of their feelings of relatedness with others, When children respond to relatedness items dealing with the emotional quality of, and the desire for greater psychological proximity in relationships with different social partners, they presumably are accessing the relevant representational models of these partners and of themselves in relation to those partners.

Several studies have been conducted that have assessed the quality of parent-child attachment relations in the offspring of parents with unipolar and bipolar mood disorders. In a pioneering study, Egeland and Sroufe (1981) compared the effects of (a) psychological unavailability and depression, (b) physical abuse and hostility, and (c) neglect. One focus of their study addressed changes in attachment patterns between the ages of 12 and 18 months. The greatest increase in insecure attachment between the ages of 12 and 18 months was in the group characterized by maternal depression and psychological unavailability.

Severity, chronicity, and type of maltreatment, as well as specific abuse history, most likely also interact with cognitive maturity in determining the nature of mental representation. It is clear that many important questions remain to be answered regarding the manner in which relationship experiences and cognitive maturity interact as determinants of mental representation. Regardless of these issues, the findings on the prevalence and stability of disorganized attachments in maltreated children point to the extreme risk that these children face in achieving adaptive outcomes in other domains of interpersonal relationships.

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