European Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies Congress edition:44 location:The Hague, The Nederlands date:10-13 September 2014
The attachment relationship is assumed to provide a context in which children develop both the capacity for affect regulation and the repertoire of responses by which they regulate affect. Previous research has mainly focused on the role of attachment in the development of the latter, while less attention has been given to the concurrent development of Effortful Control (EC), the capacity to override a dominant affective response in order to perform a more adaptive subdominant response. To evaluate the role of EC in the affect-regulatory mechanisms explaining the link between attachment and (mal)adjustment, the current studies had two main research goals. (1) To test the hypothesis that EC is related to attachment, and (2) to investigate whether EC mediates the link between attachment and maladjustment.
Children (8-13 years old) filled out questionnaires to measure anxious and avoidant attachment or trust in the availability of their mother. In Study 1 (N = 245), EC was reported by the child. In Study 2 (N = 177), EC was reported by mother. In both studies, mothers reported about children's internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. Consistent with predictions, the results indicated that insecure attachment was related to reduced EC. Moreover, EC indirectly linked insecure attachment to both internalizing and externalizing behavior problems. These studies provide evidence that studying EC is important to understand the affect-regulatory mechanisms explaining the link between attachment and (mal)adjustment. The potential value of these findings for clinical practice will be discussed.