Dispositional Attachment Orientations, Contextual Variations in Attachment Security, and Compassion Fatigue Among Volunteers Working With Traumatized Individuals

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Abstract

In the present article, we report a series of studies examining the links between attachment orientations and compassion fatigue among volunteers working with traumatized individuals. Participants were volunteers in several trauma-related organizations, ranging in age from 18 to 69 years. In Study 1 (N = 148), we examined associations between self-reports of attachment insecurities and compassion fatigue. In Study 2 (N = 54), we used a diary design to assess attachment-related differences in emotional reactions to actual helping encounters over a 2-month period. In Study 3 (N = 108), we examined the effects of the experimental enhancement of attachment security (security priming) on reactions to a hypothetical helping encounter. As expected, attachment insecurities, either anxiety or avoidance, were associated with heightened compassion fatigue. Moreover, security priming reduced compassion fatigue in response to a hypothetical helping encounter. These findings underscore the relevance of attachment theory for understanding and preventing compassion fatigue.

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