The Significance of Insecure Attachment and Disorganization in the Development of Children’s Externalizing Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Study


  • Support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research to Marinus van IJzendoorn (NWO SPINOZA award) and to Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg (NWO VIDI grant) is gratefully acknowledged. The study was also supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Glenn I. Roisman (BCS-0720538).

concerning this article should be addressed to R. Pasco Fearon, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, 3 Earley Gate, Whiteknights, Reading RD6 6AL, United Kingdom. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study addresses the extent to which insecure and disorganized attachments increase risk for externalizing problems using meta-analysis. From 69 samples (= 5,947), the association between insecurity and externalizing problems was significant, = 0.31 (95% CI: 0.23, 0.40). Larger effects were found for boys (= 0.35), clinical samples (= 0.49), and from observation-based outcome assessments (= 0.58). Larger effects were found for attachment assessments other than the Strange Situation. Overall, disorganized children appeared at elevated risk (= 0.34, 95% CI: 0.18, 0.50), with weaker effects for avoidance (= 0.12, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.21) and resistance (= 0.11, 95% CI: −0.04, 0.26). The results are discussed in terms of the potential significance of attachment for mental health.