Attachment style and interpersonal trauma in refugees

Author(s): Naser MORINA ; Ulrich SCHNYDER ; Matthis SCHICK ; Angela NICKERSON ; Richard A. BRYANT

http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0004867416631432

Abstract

Refugees can suffer many experiences that threaten their trust in others. Although models of refugee mental health have postulated that attachment securities may be damaged by refugee experiences, this has yet to be empirically tested. This study aimed to understand the relationship between the nature of traumatic experiences sustained by refugees and attachment styles.

In a cross-sectional study, treatment-seeking refugees (N = 134) were assessed for traumatic exposure using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale. Attachment style was assessed using the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale.

Whereas gender and severity of interpersonal traumatic events predicted avoidant attachment style (accounting for 11% of the variance), neither these factors nor non-interpersonal trauma predicted anxious attachment.

Exposure to interpersonal traumatic events, including torture, is associated with enduring avoidant attachment tendencies in refugees. This finding accords with attachment theories that prior adverse interpersonal experiences can undermine secure attachment systems, and may promote avoidance of attachment seeking. This finding may point to an important process maintaining poor psychological health in refugees affected by interpersonal trauma.

 

Keywords Refugee, torture, interpersonal trauma, attachment, avoidant attachment

Tags: Switzerland, Refugees, Traumatic life events, Torture, War trauma, Attachment

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