Parent and Peer Attachment in Early Adolescents with and without Disruptive Behavior Disorder



*Therriault D, Lemelin J-P, Toupin J, Déry M, Paquette D. (2019). Parent and Peer Attachment in Early Adolescents with and without Disruptive Behavior Disorder. Enfance. 4(4): 507-524.


Several studies have shown associations between attachment insecurity and externalizing behavioral problems from childhood to adolescence (Fearon, Bakermans-Kranenburg, van IJzendoorn, Lapsley & Roisman, 2010, Madigan, Brumariu, Villani, Atkinson & Lyons-Ruth, 2016). In contrast, fewer studies have examined the relationship between attachment and disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) (DeKlyen & Speltz, 2001 ; Theule, Germain, Cheung, Hurl & Markel, 2016). Moreover, few studies have considered the fact that this relationship could vary according to child sex (Constantino et al., 2006) and the attachment relationship examined (parent attachment or peer attachment). The purpose of the study was to examine whether the presence of clinically significant behavioral problems in childhood is associated with the quality of attachment relationships to parents and peers in adolescence. Four groups of adolescents were compared on the basis of their average levels of attachment to parents and peers (boys and girls with and without DBD). Five hundred children (238 girls) were recruited from primary schools, including regular students and students receiving specialized services for DBD. Attachment (overall security, trust, communication, alienation) was measured in early adolescence with the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA, Armsden & Greenberg, 1987). The presence of behavioral disorder was assessed using the clinical cutoff score on the DSM-oriented scales for conduct problems and oppositional problems (ASEBA, Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). The parent (mostly mothers) and teacher versions of the two scales were completed by the two informants at study inception. Results showed that girls with DBD reported significantly lower attachment scores to parent compared to the three other groups, while boys with DBD reported lower attachment scores to peers. The results support the hypothesis of a significant relationship between attachment insecurity and DBD history, which vary as a function of adolescent sex and the attachment relationship examined (parent vs peer).