The relation between insecure attachment and posttraumatic stress: Early life versus adulthood traumas.

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The present study examined the relations between insecure attachment and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms among community-dwelling older adults with exposure to a broad range of traumatic events. Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance predicted more severe symptoms of PTSD and explained unique variance in symptom severity when compared to other individual difference measures associated with an elevated risk of PTSD, including NEO neuroticism and event centrality. A significant interaction between the developmental timing of the trauma and attachment anxiety revealed that the relation between PTSD symptoms and attachment anxiety was stronger for individuals with current PTSD symptoms associated with early life traumas compared to individuals with PTSD symptoms linked to adulthood traumas. Analyses examining factors that account for the relation between insecure attachment and PTSD symptoms indicated that individuals with greater attachment anxiety reported stronger physical reactions to memories of their trauma and more frequent voluntary and involuntary rehearsal of their trauma memories. These phenomenological properties of trauma memories were in turn associated with greater PTSD symptom severity. Among older adults with early life traumas, only the frequency of involuntary recall partially accounted for the relation between attachment anxiety and PTSD symptoms. Our differential findings concerning early life versus adulthood trauma suggest that factors underlying the relation between attachment anxiety and PTSD symptoms vary according to the developmental timing of the traumatic exposure. Overall our results are consistent with attachment theory and with theoretical models of PTSD according to which PTSD symptoms are promoted by phenomenological properties of trauma memories.





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Ogle, Christin M, David C Rubin and Ilene C Siegler (2015). The relation between insecure attachment and posttraumatic stress: Early life versus adulthood traumas. Psychological trauma : theory, research, practice and policy, 7(4). pp. 324–332. 10.1037/tra0000015 Retrieved from

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David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory and oral traditions, as well as prose. I have also studied memory as it is more commonly done in experimental psychology laboratories using lists. In addition to this purely behavioral research, which I plan to continue, I work on memory in clinical populations with the aid of a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study PTSD and on the underlying neural basis of memory the aid of a National Institute of Aging grant to study autobiographical memory using fMRI.


Ilene C. Siegler

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

My research efforts are in the area of developmental health psychology and organized around understanding the role of personality in health and disease in middle and later life.

My primary research activity is as Principal Investigator of the UNC Alumni Heart Study (UNCAHS) a prospective epidemiologic study of 5000 middle aged men and women and 1200 of their spouses that evaluates the role of personality on coronary heart disease and coronary heart disease risk, cancer, and normal aging.

As head of Cancer Prevention Research Unit , I study the role of psychological factors related to mammography behavior and estrogen replacement therapy is being studied in UNCAHS women.


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