Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. David R. Pederson

Second Advisor

Dr. Greg Moran

Third Advisor

Dr. Rod Martin


It has long been believed that early relationships with parents play an important role in subsequent social development. Recent research in attachment theory has focused on understanding of the complex intricacies of disorganized attachment and ensuing psychopathology. This study aims to further elucidate our understanding of the origins, correlates, and developmental sequelae of disorganized attachment. This dissertation draws on theory and research from relevant areas of developmental and clinical psychology to investigate the relation between disorganized attachment relationships and 1) unresolved states of mind, and 2) anomalous interactive behavior. A narrative review and meta-analysis reporting on the links between unresolved representations of attachment, anomalous behavior, and disorganized attachment relationships is presented. Results revealed that moderate effect sizes were found for the associations between unresolved status and anomalous behavior, unresolved status and infant disorganized attachment relationships, and anomalous behavior and disorganized attachment relationships. In a second study, the links between unresolved status, disorganized attachment, and anomalous behavior were examined in a sample of 82 adolescent mother-infant dyads. A strong association was observed between anomalous behavior and disorganized attachment, as well as between unresolved status and anomalous behavior. Regression analyses revealed that anomalous behavior statistically mediated the association between unresolved status and disorganized attachment. In a third study, the associations between toddler behaviour problems, unresolved states of mind, anomalous behaviour, and disorganized attachment were examined in 64 111 adolescent mother-infant dyads. Maternal reports of externalizing problems were significantly related to unresolved status, anomalous behavior, and disorganized attachment. Regression analyses supported a model in which disorganized attachment mediated the association between anomalous maternal behavior and externalizing problems. No evidence was found for disorganized attachment as a mediator of the association between unresolved status and externalizing problems. In the final study, the rate of change in the display of anomalous behavior over the course of an attachment-based intervention in a group of 11 high-risk mother-infant dyads was examined. Results from this study provided preliminary empirical support that a significant decrease in the mothers’ display of disrupted behaviors could be observed relatively quickly after the attachment-based treatment commenced. Data from this study provide encouraging support for Main and Hesse’s (1990) and Lyons-Ruth, Parsons, and Bronfman’s (1999) conceptualization of anomalous maternal interactive behaviour.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.