Disorganized Attachment and Personality Functioning in Adults: A Latent Class Analysis

Joseph E. Beeney, Aidan G.C. Wright, Stephanie D. Stepp, Michael N. Hallquist, Sophie A. Lazarus, Julie R.S. Beeney, Lori N. Scott, Paul A. Pilkonis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Though researchers have attended to disorganized attachment in infants and children, they have infrequently focused on the character of disorganized attachment in adults. In this study, we aimed to identify clusters of participants based on attachment levels and styles, seeking to better delineate severity and stylistic differences in disorganized attachment than has been previously articulated. We used a new assessment approach focused on a hierarchy of attachment organization, including secure, insecure (dismissive and preoccupied), rigid-controlling (hostile control and compulsive caregiving), and disorganized (contradictory, impoverished, and unresolved) levels of attachment. Clinical evaluators used information from diagnostic and attachment-based interviews to rate participants on each of these aspects of attachment. Latent class analysis (LCA) revealed a 4-class solution, including a secure (n = 33), insecure (n = 110), and 2 disorganized classes. One disorganized class (disorganized-oscillating) was characterized by elevations on contradictory and preoccupied styles (n = 77) and another (disorganizedimpoverished) showed elevations on impoverished and dismissive styles (n = 53). The disorganizedoscillating class exhibited elevated personality disorder (PD) severity and general symptom severity, borderline personality disorder (BPD), histrionic, and antisocial dimensional scores, and the most severe identity disturbance compared with the other classes. The impoverished-dismissive class exhibited the highest avoidant and schizoid PD dimensional scores of the classes, and higher PD severity compared with the insecure and secure classes. These results highlight the possibility of identifying distinct classes of attachment organization, differentiated both by aspects of severity and interpersonal style. They also shed light on the manifestation of attachment disorganization in adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-216
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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