Attachment style in young offenders : parents, peers & delinquency




Nicholson, Tavi R.

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It has been argued that early family adversity and relationships with parents and peers are important variables in the etiology of juvenile delinquency. Although several studies point to the connection between attachment style and aggressive/antisocial behavior in childhood, few empirical studies have explored adolescents' attachment styles in their important relationships and delinquent behavior. This study evaluated 102 young offenders' attachments to mothers, fathers, and peers as potential mediators between early adversity and later criminal behavior. The young persons completed an interview regarding their parents and peers, self-report instruments concerning attachment style, as measured by the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) and The Important People Questionnaire (IPQ; Hazan & Ziefman, 1994). In addition, file reviews of relevant background information and criminal variables were conducted. Results indicated that attachment to fathers mediated the relationship between adversity and criminal outcomes. A mediational model was also supported when considering attachment to other adults in a caregiving role. Thus, these results suggest that a positive relationship with an adult caregiver may be a protective factor in the development of criminal behavior for young people who have experienced prior adversity. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for measuring attachment with juvenile delinquents, conducting therapy with young offenders, and future research.



Juvenile delinquency, Juvenile corrections