Published:  2015-02-01

Attachment and physiological reactivity to infant crying in young adulthood: Dissociation between experiential and physiological arousal in insecure adoptees

Authors:  Christie Schoenmaker, Renske Huffmeijer, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Linda van den Dries, Mariëlle Linting, Anja van der Voort, Femmie Juffer

Tags:  Adoption, Adult attachment, Attachment Script Assessment, Emotional reactivity, Physiological reactivity

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The associations between attachment representations of adopted young adults and their experiential and physiological arousal to infant crying were examined. Attachment representations were assessed with the Attachment Script Assessment (ASA), and the young adults listened to infant cries, during which ratings of cry perception were collected and physiological reactivity was measured. Secure adoptees showed a well-integrated response to infant distress: heart-rate increases and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) withdrawal were coupled with heightened perception of urgency in these individuals. In insecure adoptees RSA withdrawal was absent, and a combination of lowered perceived urgency and heightened sympathetic arousal was found, reflecting a deactivating style of emotional reactivity. Overall, our findings support the idea that internal working models of attachment explain individual differences in the way attachment-related information is processed.