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The relationship between early deprivation and peer relationship difficulties in middle childhood: The role of attachment in mediating this relationship

Sawyer, Lucy; (2004) The relationship between early deprivation and peer relationship difficulties in middle childhood: The role of attachment in mediating this relationship. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

There is evidence that early deprivation and institutionalisation are linked to difficulties in peer relationships in later childhood and beyond, but to date, little is known about the mechanisms underlying such difficulties. Within normally developing populations it is proposed that early attachment experiences influence peer relationships, although there is still some debate regarding the extent and manner of this influence. Given the strong evidence for the association between deprivation and attachment disturbances reported by studies of ex-institutionalised children, the present study assessed the extent to which the relationship between deprivation and difficulties in peer relationships is mediated by attachment disturbances resulting from early deprivation. Much of the research into attachment and peer relationships has focussed on infancy and thus relied mainly on observations of behaviour. This study assessed internal representations of attachment in children aged 11 years old. 90 children adopted into the UK from Romania following early severe deprivation and 30 children adopted from within the UK before 6 months of age were assessed. Data on attachment pattern was assessed from a standardised interview with the children (the Child Attachment Interview, CAI) using a modified version of the CAI coding scale. The scale focused on three cognitive indicators of attachment pattern (mentalising ability, level of narrative coherence and emotion non-containment) and behavioural indicators of attachment disturbance. Children's peer relationship difficulties were assessed from a semi-structured parent interview. The findings demonstrated a significant dose-response effect of duration of early deprivation on difficulties in peer relationships at age 11. Children who experienced deprivation presented less coherent narratives about attachment relationships and greater levels of atypical attachment behaviour than UK controls. Furthermore there was a significant negative association between deprivation and IQ; group differences in IQ mediated the relationship between deprivation and attachment. There was no evidence that the relationship between deprivation and peer relationship difficulties was mediated by attachment difficulties resulting from early deprivation; this relationship was however mediated by differences in IQ between the groups. The findings are discussed in terms of the implications they have for the focus and methods of supporting children who have experienced global early deprivation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy
Title: The relationship between early deprivation and peer relationship difficulties in middle childhood: The role of attachment in mediating this relationship
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Deprivation
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099858
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