Mia Trojovsky

Faculty Advisor

Marylin Welsh

Document Type


Publication Date



Research has established that there is a general association between initial attachment behavior and experiences that take place early in life, so it is reasonable to expect the presentation of maladaptive attachment behavior in individuals who have a history of negative experiences. Our previous study found that college students with a childhood maltreatment (CM) history reported increased rates of anxious attachment. In this sample, the relationship between CM and anxious attachment was partially mediated by psychopathic personality traits, particularly the blame externalization component of psychopathy. Alternate components of personality may influence the relationship between CM and attachment in differing ways. According to previous studies, harm avoidance (HA) has been observed as a developmental outcome of CM. Studies involving HA and attachment have found that those exhibiting more HA seek out relationships less frequently. The existing research examining HA in relation to both CM and attachment style is limited. In these previous studies, it was found that HA developed in individuals with a history of parental overprotection as well as those with a history of parental punishment (Stenbæk, Jensen, Holst, Mortensen, Knudsen, & Frokjaer, 2014). The present study utilized a second sample of individuals in order to investigate this relationship. In this sample, # college students who reported higher rates of CM also reported higher levels of harm avoidance. Additionally, those who reported increased rates of anxious attachment also reported higher levels of harm avoidance. The anticipatory worry subscale of harm avoidance was found to fully mediate the pathway between a history of sexual abuse and anxious attachment. Both studies together demonstrate that maladaptive personality characteristics are associated with maltreatment history, which in turn predicts challenges with healthy attachment in young adulthood.


This presentation is a finalist for the Undergraduate Social Sciences, Education, Business Research Excellence Award