Author

Lauren Earls

Date Approved

8-16-2010

Date Posted

11-18-2010

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Alissa Huth-Bocks, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Carol Freedman-Doan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Knapp, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maria Muzik, M.D.

Abstract

Prior research has suggested a complex relationship between childhood interpersonal traumas perpetrated by attachment figures and the experience of trauma in adulthood. Very little is known, however, about how various forms of childhood interpersonal abuse and neglect affect trauma sequelae and adult romantic attachment in women during the childbearing years. Using a sample of postpartum women (N = 104), this study examined the associations between a history of attachment-related traumas (operationalized as childhood interpersonal abuse and neglect) and complex trauma sequelae believed to be unique to victims of interpersonal traumas; the possible role that adult romantic attachment anxiety and avoidance (i.e., insecurity-security) may have in understanding these associations was also investigated. This study also examined the associations between secure base scripts, or cognitive structures thought to underlie internal working models of attachment established early in life, and attachment-related traumas, the adult romantic attachment dimensions of anxiety and avoidance, and complex trauma outcomes. Results of this study indicated that attachment-related traumas were associated with adult romantic attachment anxiety and avoidance and complex trauma outcomes, and that adult romantic attachment insecurity-security may be an important mechanism by which early attachment-related traumas influence later complex trauma outcomes. In addition, while results indicated a significant relationship between the two types of secure base scripts, findings revealed no relationship between secure base scriptedness and attachment-related traumas or adult romantic attachment insecurity-security. Finally, both types of secure base scriptedness were related to a self-report measure of trauma-related cognitions. Implications of study findings are discussed in light of previous literature and attachment and trauma theories.

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