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Adult personality characteristics and family relationships: The development and validation of an interview-based assessment technique

Steele, Howard Lyle; (1991) Adult personality characteristics and family relationships: The development and validation of an interview-based assessment technique. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The present series of studies aimed to examine the reliability and validity of an interview-based assessment of adults' security of attachment. Security of attachment in early childhood has been given well-established operational definitions (secure versus insecure) by the Strange Situation paradigm which has been shown to predict children's future emotional wellbeing. However, it is only recently that the Adult Attachment Interview was proposed as a corollary assessment of attachment security in adulthood. The work reported in this thesis investigates, from a number of perspectives, the reliability and validity of this interview-based assessment. In the context of an extensive review of the literature concerning the influence of early childhood experience upon subsequent development, the introductory chapter highlights a number of areas critical to the establishment of the construct validity of the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). Subsequent chapters explore the instrument, and its associated system of classifying and rating interview-responses, in terms of test-retest reliability; inter-rater reliability; the multi-dimensionality of the attachment construct; concurrent validity; predictive validity and discriminant validity. The first study confirmed the test-retest reliability of the AAI classification system over a period of one-month, suggesting that adults' mental models of family relationships are a stable personality characteristic. On the basis of this first study, revisions to the AAI rating system were proposed and tested in subsequent investigations with a sample of 100 expectant mothers and 100 expectant fathers. The interviews collected from these 200 adults were rated on a series of 29 interval scales assessing Probable Past Experience and Current State of Mind with respect to attachment. Also, the interviews were classified as Secure-Autonomous, Insecure-Dismissing, or Insecure-Preoccupied, the presumed correlates of secure, avoidant and resistant patterns of infant attachment. When these adults' children were 12 months of age, the quality of the child-mother attachment was assessed; and when the children were 18 months of age, the quality of the child-father attachment was assessed. The chapter on predictive validity of the AAI reports that the antenatal interview- based assessments successfully distinguished securely attached from avoidantly attached infants. The chapter on concurrent validity indicates that information obtained from classification of an individual's AAI is distinct from information obtained by questionnaire-based assessments of self-esteem, and attachment history. The chapter on discriminant validity shows that AAI-responses are largely independent of verbal skills, demographic characteristics, and the personality traits of neuroticism and extroversion. Through factor analysis of AAI-based ratings, the multi-dimensionality of the attachment construct is confirmed in terms of parent-specific and global dimensions to attachment. Both the child and the adult appear to possess distinct mental models of the individual's relationship with father, and with mother. In addition to, and over-riding these parent-specific mental models of attachment, attachment security in adulthood is typified by the presence of global representations of attachment, reflected in the extent to which an adult demonstrates a coherent or metacognitive understanding of his parent-specific attachment experiences.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Adult personality characteristics and family relationships: The development and validation of an interview-based assessment technique
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Attachment security
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10107523
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