Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Henry B. Biller


This study was designed primarily to begin to bridge the gap that currently exists between the adult attachment literature and the initial studies of attachment among infants discussed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth by exploring a real world, present time disruption of attachment relationships among adult inmates. Infant attachment research focused on emotional and behavioral reactions to separation from attachment figures and this study' s main premise was to examine adult reactions to being separated from loved ones. Subjects consisted of 167 male inmates who had been sentenced to at least a six-month term of incarceration at a state penitentiary. Inmates were tested within the first month of their imprisonment to assess acute emotional and behavioral reactions to being separated from loved ones and were administered the Relationship Questionnaire (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991) which utilizes a four-category model of adult attachment to assess individual attachment patterns. It was predicted that Secure and Dismissing inmates would adjust better both behaviorally and emotionally to separation from loved ones than either Fearful or Preoccupied inmates. Emotional adjustment was measured via scores on specific scales of the MMPI-2, the Brief Symptom Inventory, and a mental status interview and behavioral adjustment was measured by reviewing the number and severity of inmates' disciplinary records.

Overall, the analyses lent partial support to the hypotheses. There was some consistency across the objective measures of emotional adjustment in that Secure and Dismissing inmates had BSI and MMPI-2 scores indicative of better adjustment to separation from loved ones than Fearful and Preoccupied inmates, particularly on the depression and anxiety scales. The results from the mental status interview were less clear. Additionally, the attachment groups did not differ from each other on the behavioral indicators of adjustment. The results are discussed in terms of connecting the infant and adult attachment literatures as well as their contribution to current adult attachment research. Additionally, implications for mental health professionals working both inside and outside of prison settings are discussed. Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are also highlighted.



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