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Keywords:

  • Attachment;
  • externalizing problems;
  • cumulative risk;
  • gender

Background:  Some contend that attachment insecurity increases risk for the development of externalizing behavior problems in children.

Method:  Latent-growth curve analyses were applied to data on 1,364 children from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care to evaluate the association between early attachment and teacher-rated externalizing problems across the primary-school years.

Results:  Findings indicate that (a) both avoidant and disorganized attachment predict higher levels of externalizing problems but (b) that effects of disorganized attachment are moderated by family cumulative contextual risk, child gender and child age, with disorganized boys from risky social contexts manifesting increases in behavior problems over time.

Conclusions:  These findings highlight the potentially conditional role of early attachment in children’s externalizing behavior problems and the need for further research evaluating causation and mediating mechanisms.