Attachment and attention problems: A meta-analysis

Susanna Pallini, Mara Morelli, Antonio Chirumbolo, Roberto Baiocco, Fiorenzo Laghi, Nancy Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Attachment theorists have argued that securely attached children tend to exhibit flexible attention; the attention of children with resistant attachments is centered on attachment-related worries; children with avoidant attachments defensively focus attention away from attachment-related emotions/thoughts; and children with disorganized attachments exhibit the collapse of attention and disorientation. In this meta-analysis, a relation between attachment security status and attention problems (APs) in children (18 years and younger) was found. In total, 62 studies (67 samples) met the inclusion criteria. Children with insecure attachments were higher in APs than those with a secure attachment (r = 0.21); those with avoidant or resistant attachments were higher than securely attached children (rs = 0.10 and 0.21, respectively); children with disorganized attachments were higher than those with organized attachments (r = 0.27). Effects were larger when attachment and APs were measured concurrently/closer in time (for secure versus all; disorganized versus organized attachment); for representational versus observational measures of attachment, non-parental reports of APs, and attachment assessed at an older age (for disorganized versus organized attachment); for samples with proportionally fewer boys (secure versus resistant attachment); in recent studies (secure versus avoidant attachment); and when disorganized children were in a high-risk sample or resistant children were in a low-risk condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101772
JournalClinical Psychology Review
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Attachment
  • Attention problems
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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