Multiple domains of parental secure base support during childhood and adolescence contribute to adolescents’ representations of attachment as a secure base script

Brian E. Vaughn, Theodore E.A. Waters, Ryan D. Steele, Glenn I. Roisman, Kelly K Freeman Bost, Warren Truitt, Harriet S. Waters, Cathryn Booth-Laforce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although attachment theory claims that early attachment representations reflecting the quality of the child’s “lived experiences” are maintained across developmental transitions, evidence that has emerged over the last decade suggests that the association between early relationship quality and adolescents’ attachment representations is fairly modest in magnitude. We used aspects of parenting beyond sensitivity over childhood and adolescence and early security to predict adolescents’ scripted attachment representations. At age 18 years, 673 participants from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development completed the Attachment Script Assessment from which we derived an assessment of secure base script knowledge. Measures of secure base support from childhood through age 15 years (e.g., parental monitoring of child activity, father presence in the home) were selected as predictors and accounted for an additional 8% of the variance in secure base script knowledge scores above and beyond direct observations of sensitivity and early attachment status alone, suggesting that adolescents’ scripted attachment representations reflect multiple domains of parenting. Cognitive and demographic variables also significantly increased predicted variance in secure base script knowledge by 2% each.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-336
Number of pages20
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 3 2016



  • Attachment representation
  • adolescent
  • parenting
  • script
  • sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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