Insecure Adult Attachment and Child Maltreatment: A Meta-Analysis

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Extant evidence has shown that insecure adult attachment is related to dysfunctional parenting styles that heighten parents’ risk of child maltreatment. However, there is a lack of studies appraising the evidence for the association between insecure adult attachment and child maltreatment. This meta-analytic study examined the relationship between parents’ adult attachment and child maltreatment perpetration/child abuse potential. Studies examining the relationship between parents’ adult attachment and child maltreatment/child abuse potential published before February 2017 were identified through a systematic search of online databases. In total, 16 studies (N = 1,830) were selected. Meta-analysis based on random-effects models shows a significant positive association between insecure attachment and child maltreatment (pooled effect size: odds ratio [OR] = 2.93, p =.000). Subgroup analyses show insecure attachment was more strongly associated with failure to thrive (OR = 8.04, p =.000) and filicide (OR = 5.00, p <.05). Medium effect sizes were found for subgroup analyses on insecure romantic attachment (OR = 3.76, p =.000), general attachment (OR = 3.38, p =.000), attachment to own child (OR = 3.13, p =.001), and to own parents (OR = 2.63, p =.000) in relation to child maltreatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-719
Number of pages14
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • adult attachment
  • child maltreatment
  • meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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