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The role of attachment and affect regulation in aggressive behaviour: concurrent and prospective effects among at-risk adolescents

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(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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Insecure attachment and maladaptive affect regulation are linked to a host of negative outcomes, including aggressive behaviour (Guttmann-Steinmetz & Crowell, 2006). This study examined the relation between these two key developmental processes and adolescent aggression. Based on previous research, I hypothesized that attachment anxiety in girls and attachment avoidance in boys would be uniquely related to aggression concurrently as well as two years later. I further hypothesized that affect regulation would moderate these relationships. The participants consisted of 167 adolescent girls and boys at high risk for aggressive behaviour. Results revealed several gender specific patterns in support of the predicted relationships. Specifically, in girls, attachment anxiety was more strongly related to overt aggression than was attachment avoidance, both concurrently and at follow-up. Further, in girls, low affect regulation mediated the relation between attachment anxiety and concurrent overt aggression and moderated the relation between attachment anxiety and relational aggression at follow-up. In boys, on the other hand, attachment avoidance was more strongly related to relational aggression than was attachment anxiety at either time point; and attachment avoidance was also more strongly related to concurrent overt aggression. As predicted, affect regulation moderated the relation between attachment avoidance and relational aggression at follow-up. Implications of these findings for theory and interventions are discussed.
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