Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is associated with attachment insecurity

Leanne Clarke, Judy Ungerer*, Katrina Chahoud, Susan Johnson, Ingeborg Stiefel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    133 Citations (Scopus)


    The literature on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attachment is reviewed, and we describe an investigation of the relationship between attachment insecurity and ADHD. Nineteen boys, aged 5-10 years with DSM-IV diagnoses of ADHD were compared with 19 control children on three representational measures assessing internal working models of attachment and the self: the Separation Anxiety Test, the Self Interview, and a Family Drawing rated with an attachment-based scoring system. Consistent support was found for the hypothesis that ADHD is associated with insecurity of attachment, with the ADHD group obtaining poorer scores on all three measures. The nature of attachment insecurity in the ADHD group was one of heightened emotional expression characterized by strong, out of control affects, and was consistent with an anxious-ambivalent or disorganized attachment style. We argue that quality of attachment with primary caregivers should be assessed when children present with symptoms of ADHD, and that where insecure attachment relationships are found, treatment must incorporate relationship-building components.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)179-198
    Number of pages20
    JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


    • Attachment
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • Internal working models


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