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Latent classes in preschoolers’ internal working models of attachment and emotional security: Roles of family risk
Development and Psychopathology  (IF5.317),  Pub Date : 2022-04-08, DOI: 10.1017/s0954579422000293
Ruth Speidel, Brigid Behrens, Monica Lawson, E. Mark Cummings, Kristin Valentino

Children’s relationships inform their internal working models (IWMs) of the world around them. Attachment and emotional security theory (EST) emphasize the importance of parent–child and interparental relationships, respectively, for IWM. The current study examined (a) data-driven classes in child attachment and emotional security IWM, (b) associations between IWM classes and demographic variables, maltreatment, intimate partner violence (IPV), and maternal depressive symptoms, and (c) consistency in attachment and emotional security IWM classes, including as a function of maltreatment, IPV, and maternal depressive symptoms. Participants were 234 preschool-aged children (n = 152 experienced maltreatment and n = 82 had not experienced maltreatment) and their mothers. Children participated in a narrative-based assessment of IWM. Mothers reported demographics, IPV, and maternal depressive symptoms. Latent class analyses revealed three attachment IWM classes and three emotional security IWM classes. Maltreatment was associated with lower likelihood of being in the secure attachment class and elevated likelihood of being in the insecure dysregulated attachment class. Inconsistencies in classification across attachment and emotional security IWM classes were related to maltreatment, IPV, and maternal depressive symptoms. The current study juxtaposes attachment and EST and provides insight into impacts of family adversity on children’s IWM across different family relationships.