The study examined the degree to which teens at high risk for behaviour problems rely on friends and romantic partners rather than parents to meet attachment needs and whether this affected their psychological adjustment. Participants were 158 adolescents recruited from youth custody settings and a mental health facility. Attachment functions shifted from parents to peers much earlier compared to previously published results based on normative samples. Only 9% of participants preferred their parents for proximity seeking, 18% for safe haven, 23% for secure base, and 17% reported separation distress. Males reported experiencing greater separation distress in relation to their parents than females. No other gender differences were found. For all attachment functions, adolescents who turned more to their romantic partners than to their friends or parents reported higher levels of internalizing symptoms. No significant differences were found for externalizing symptoms. Clinical implications were discussed including the necessity of attachment-based interventions.
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Thesis advisor: Moretti, Marlene
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