The Association Between Childhood Trauma and Attachment Functioning in Patients With Personality Disorders

Danielle Voestermans, Merijn Eikelenboom, Jitske Rullmann, Maryke Wolters-Geerdink, Nel Draijer, Jan H Smit, Kathleen Thomaes, Hein J F van Marle

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Attachment (mal)functioning and a history of childhood trauma (CT) are both considered psychological determinants of personality disorders (PDs). Their interaction, however, remains largely uninvestigated. In this study, the authors assessed adult and childhood attachment style in a sample of patients with diverse PDs (N = 75) and determined the relation with both occurrence and severity of CT. The authors found that the sample was characterized by severe attachment malfunctioning and high levels of CT. Using cross-tabulations and analysis of variance, the authors showed that patients with a fearful or dismissive attachment style experienced more severe CT than patients with a preoccupied attachment style. Patients reporting an affectionless control bonding style to either parent suffered frequent and severe CT. Although temporal causality cannot be determined, these findings stress the necessity to screen for CT in PDs and suggest that attachment-centered psychotherapy for these patients may benefit from preceding or concurrent trauma treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-572
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of personality disorders
Issue number4
Early online date12 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Adult attachment
  • Childhood trauma
  • Parental bonding
  • Personality disorders
  • Treatment

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