Based on attachment theory, we hypothesized that self-reported childhood experiences of disengaged parenting (DP) would predict adults' psychological symptoms even more than, on average, childhood sexual, physical, or psychological abuse.
In a large (N = 640) university sample, bootstrapped multiple regression analyses indicated that although various forms of child maltreatment were correlated with symptomatology at the univariate level, DP was the primary multivariate predictor. Structural equation modeling indicated significant direct paths from (a) DP to both nonsexual child maltreatment and sexual abuse, (b) DP and nonsexual child maltreatment to insecure attachment, and (c) sexual abuse and insecure attachment to symptomatology. There were significant indirect effects of DP on psychological symptoms through sexual and nonsexual abuse, as well as through attachment.
These results suggest that although child abuse has direct and indirect impacts on psychological symptoms, exposure to DP may be especially detrimental, both by increasing the risk of child abuse and by virtue of its impacts on attachment insecurity. They also support the potential use of attachment-oriented intervention in the treatment of adults maltreated as children.
Brière, J., Runtz, M., Eadie, E., Bigras, N. and Godbout, N. (2017) Disengaged parenting: Structural equation modeling with child sexual abuse, insecure attachement, and adult symptomatology. Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 67. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.02.036.