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The association between attachment style, social mentalities and paranoid ideation: An analogue study

Author(s): MacBeth A, Schwannauer M, Gumley A


Objectives. The study was a novel exploration of possible associations between attachment status and psychotic phenomenology, applied within a social mentality framework (Gilbert, 1989, 2001). We hypothesized that attachment avoidance would be associated with higher endorsement of paranoid ideation. Consistent with social mentality theory, we hypothesized that higher levels of interpersonal problems would also be associated with higher paranoia scores and greater attachment avoidance.

Design. An analogue cross-sectional cohort design was used.

Methods. Two hundred and thirteen individuals completed self-report measures of current attachment style, interpersonal problems, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety.

Results. Confirmatory factor analysis of the attachment measure suggested a two-factor structure: attachment anxiety and avoidance. Covariance modelling suggested both attachment and a strategy of interpersonal distancing predicted paranoia. Hallucinatory phenomena were predicted by latent constructs representing interpersonal dependence and avoidance strategies.

Conclusions. The findings confirmed a two-factor dimensional model was the optimum model for attachment self-report data. The interaction of attachment theory and social mentalities appears to be a promising framework for exploring developmental aspects of psychotic phenomenology.

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