People with mild to moderate learning disabilities show same range of attachment styles as general population


Attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships. Hazan and Shaver identified four styles of attachment: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant. This pilot study set out to look at whether adults with mild/moderate learning disabilities could accurately self-report their attachment style.

The authors also wanted to look at whether there was Any relationship between attachment styles and challenging behaviour and/or mental health problems.

60 adults with learning disabilities along with 39 people who supported them completed questionnaires based on Hazan and Shaver’s attachment categories and mental health diagnoses. In addition, supporters were asked to provide information about challenging behaviour.

From the analysis of the questionnaires, the authors suggest that people with mild/moderate learning disabilities showed the same range of attachment styles as the general population. They found some links between challenging behaviour and insecure attachment with an association between depression and insecure-avoidant attachment.

The authors explore the potential application of attachment theory in therapy and at in relation to the development of policy. They suggest interventions could be developed that focus on attachment relationships. They also suggest that their findings question the notion that attachment behaviour is linked to challenging behaviour directly, certainly for people with mild moderate intellectual disabilities.

Attachment style and mental health in adults with intellectual disability: self-reports and reports by carers, Larson, F et al., in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 5, 3, 15-23

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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