Insecure attachment is a strong predictor of anger expression in young people
Can attachment style be a predictor of aggression? A study published in BMC Psychology suggests that fearful and dismissive attachment styles may be linked to more anger, higher levels of hostility, and increased aggression.
The quality of parenting a child receives can have profound effects on them throughout their lives. Attachment styles, which mostly form in childhood, can be linked to emotional regulation, self-control, and coping skills. Generally, there are four attachment styles that are widely accepted: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidance, and fearful-avoidance.
The secure attachment style is thought to be formed by a child’s needs that are consistently met by their caregiver, while other insecure attachments are formed by less stable parent-child dynamics. Previous research has suggested that insecure attachment is linked to higher levels of aggression and hostility. This study aims to explore these results further.
“While researchers have found a link between insecure attachment and the expression of anger and the fact that adolescents react to a perceived threat in several ways, including anger, aggression and hostility, we little is known about how these reactions can be interpreted in terms of different attachment types, which may suggest different approaches to better control or regulation of anger,” wrote study author Elise Maalouf. and his colleagues
The researchers used 1,810 Lebanese high school students from 16 different high schools to serve as a sample. Data was collected between January and May 2019. The survey was self-administered in secondary schools to avoid parental influence and lasted approximately one hour. Physical activity during leisure time was measured. Additionally, participants responded to measures of demographic information, attachment, and aggression.
Results showed that participants who displayed a secure attachment style had lower scores for anger expression. This is consistent with previous research showing that young people who can communicate effectively with their parents are less likely to display aggressive behavior. Additionally, results showed that participants with insecure attachment displayed higher levels of physical and verbal aggression.
Fearful-avoidant attachment in particular was a significant predictor of anger, while preoccupied attachment was linked to high levels of hostility. Hostility was also related to age, in that there is an inverse relationship. Hostility decreases as children get older. Participants with higher levels of physical activity also showed higher levels of anger expression, despite the popular belief that exercise improves mood.
“The findings underscored the need for future studies to better understand whether anger management interventions should focus on creating constructive attachment patterns rather than relying solely on anger management techniques.” , the researchers concluded. “However, attachment style is a personal characteristic that appears to persist across life and can be difficult to change. It may also be more effective to focus on potentially modifiable factors other than physical activity. already assessed in this study, such as psychosocial constructs, critical components in the formation of people’s traits, as a means of extending the chances of anger management.
The study, “Attachment styles and their association with aggression, hostility and anger in Lebanese adolescents: a national study», Elise Maalouf, Pascale Salameh, Chadia Haddad, Hala Sacre, Souheil Hallit and Sahar Obeid.