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Attachment, psychological health and interpersonal functioning: a comparison of clinical and non-clinical groups of people with intellectual disability

Lucy Bateman (Young People’s Specialist Support Team, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Ashton-under-Lyne, UK)
Andrea Flood (Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Deanna Jayne Gallichan (School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK)
Leonardo De Pascalis (Department of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 17 May 2023

Issue publication date: 8 November 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

Insecure and unresolved attachments have been linked to poorer psychological health and interpersonal functioning for people with intellectual disabilities (IDs), but research in this area is limited, especially for adults. Studies using the Adult Attachment Projective (AAP) have been restricted to clinical samples, where insecure and unresolved attachments are typically more prevalent. The purpose of this study is to compare clinical and non-clinical groups of adults with IDs on the AAP, plus measures of psychological health and interpersonal functioning, to investigate whether group differences found in the typically developing population are also present for adults with IDs.

Design/methodology/approach

A cross-sectional, between-group design was used. Adults with IDs (clinical group n = 11 and non-clinical group n = 13) completed measures of attachment, psychological distress/positive well-being and interpersonal functioning. Attachment classifications were compared in the clinical versus non-clinical groups. Measures of psychological distress, positive well-being and interpersonal functioning were compared between those with insecure-organised versus unresolved classifications.

Findings

No participants were classified as secure, and there were high rates of unresolved attachment. There were no differences between clinical and non-clinical groups with regards to the distribution of insecure-organised (i.e. dismissing or preoccupied) versus unresolved classifications. There were no differences between groups with regards to psychological distress, positive well-being or interpersonal functioning. The authors consider limitations in the method of group differentiation and suggest further research to better understand the development of internal working models of attachment in this population.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of only three to examine attachment state of mind in adults with IDs using the AAP and the first to examine differences between clinical and non-clinical groups.

Keywords

Citation

Bateman, L., Flood, A., Gallichan, D.J. and De Pascalis, L. (2023), "Attachment, psychological health and interpersonal functioning: a comparison of clinical and non-clinical groups of people with intellectual disability", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 213-225. https://doi.org/10.1108/AMHID-04-2023-0011

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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