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Rholes, W. S., Paetzold, R. L., & Kohn, J. L. (2016). Disorganized attachment mediates the link from early trauma to adult relationships and psychopathology. Personality and Individual Differences90, 61-65. [pdf]

This study investigates the mediating effects of attachment disorganization in adulthood, along with the organized attachment styles of anxiety and avoidance, to determine whether the connections between early childhood traumatic experiences and externalizing behaviors in adult romantic relationships can be explained by an attachment model that directly assesses a dimensional measure of adult disorganization. In our study, we used 510 adults who were U.S. citizens, all of whom completed online scales that provided retrospective information about childhood trauma, attachment working model information, and current experiences regarding relationship patterns. Our results indicated that adult disorganization mediated the effects between childhood and adult experiences. We also contrasted fearful avoidance with disorganization as mediators, demonstrating that they appear to be different constructs (as is sometimes contested in the literature) and can provide conflicting information about childhood to adult linkages. Our findings suggest that disorganization in adulthood mediates important relationships between early trauma and later adult externalizing outcomes, similar to outcomes seen for disorganization in childhood and adolescence. We therefore extend the existing literature, demonstrating that results from developmental psychology are relevant to social psychologists who study attachment theory in romantic relationships.

Paetzold, R. L., Rholes, W. S., & Kohn, J. L. (2015). Disorganized attachment in adulthood: Theory, measurement, and implications for romantic relationships. Review of General Psychology, 19, 146-156. [pdf]

Disorganized attachment has been studied extensively in the developmental attachment literature, particularly in regard to infants and children. It has not been studied from a social psychological perspective in adulthood. In this paper we contribute to the social psychology literature by beginning to explore the meaning and consequences of disorganized attachment for adults. Based on the literature on disorganization in infants, childhood, and adolescence, we develop a dimensional measure for assessing disorganization in adults and demonstrate that it predicts similar internalizing symptoms and externalizing behaviors to those observed in children and adolescents. Thus, this scale instrument should provide social psychologists with a means to assess disorganization in adulthood and begin to look at its consequences for romantic relationships. We discuss some of those potential consequences, thereby providing avenues for future research.

Fillo, J., Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., & Kohn, J. L. (2015). Dads doing diapers: Individual and relational outcomes associated with the division of childcare across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology108, 298-316. [pdf]

This longitudinal study examined how relative contributions to the division of childcare are related to individual and relational outcomes across the first two years of the transition to parenthood. Data were collected from a large sample of first-time parents 6 weeks before the birth of their child and then at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months postpartum. The results revealed that certain individual differences—especially gender and attachment avoidance—shape individual reactions to childcare, above and beyond the proportion of childcare tasks that partners report completing. Women and less avoidantly attached new parents handle the introduction of childcare tasks better than most men, especially those who are more avoidantly attached. In addition, certain reactions to childcare, such as childcare self-efficacy and perceptions of work-family conflict, moderate the relation between childcare contributions and relationship satisfaction over the course of the transition. We also discuss the need for more research on men’s adjustment during this particularly stressful transition.

McAllister, C. L., Leykum, L. K., Lanham, H. J., Reisinger, H. S., Kohn, J. L., Palmer, R. F., Pezzia, C., Agar, M. H., Parchman, M. L., Pugh, J. A., & McDaniel, R. R. (2014). Relationships within inpatient physician housestaff teams and their association with hospitalized patient outcomes. Journal of Hospital Medicine, 9, 764-771. [pdf]

Improving inpatient care delivery has historically focused on improving individual components of the system. Applying a complexity science framework to clinical systems highlights how relationships among providers can impact system functioning and clinical outcomes. We differentiated between inpatient medical physician teams based on the relationships among team members, then associated these differences with patient outcomes, including length of stay (LOS), unnecessary length of stay (ULOS), and complication rates. We observed 11 teams over 352.9 hours, observing 1,941 discussions of 576 individual patients. Relationship characteristics significantly predicted complication rates, and, specifically, trust and mindfulness among teams significantly predicted ULOS and complication rates. These findings show the impact of team functioning on the outcomes of hospitalized medical patients. This understanding could expand the scope of interventions to improve hospital care to include not only process improvement but also relationships among providers.

Rholes, W. S., Kohn, J. L., & Simpson, J. A. (2014). A longitudinal study of conflict in new parents: The role of attachment. Personal Relationships, 21, 1-21. [pdf]

In this longitudinal study of the transition to parenthood, members of couples reported on their own use of conflict resolution tactics and their perceptions of their partners’ use of conflict resolution tactics. These reports were analyzed in terms of their own and their partners’ attachment orientations. The results showed that more anxious and avoidant persons used less effective conflict resolution styles, and that both actor and partner attachment orientations were related to the use of specific conflict tactics. In some cases, less insecure persons showed improvement over time by using fewer ineffective and by using more effective conflict tactics. More  insecure individuals, however, showed little improvement and, in some cases, declines across time.

Kohn, J. L., Rholes, W. S., Simpson, J. A., Martin, A. M., III, Tran, S., & Wilson, C. L. (2012). Changes in marital satisfaction across the transition to parenthood: The role of adult attachment orientations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 1509-1525. [pdf]

This longitudinal study investigated marital satisfaction trajectories across the first two years of parenthood. Data were collected from new parents (couples) 6 weeks before the birth of their first child, and then at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months postpartum. Growth curve models revealed two key findings. First, for highly anxious individuals, satisfaction was lower or declined when they perceived their partners as less supportive and as behaving more negatively toward them. Second, for highly avoidant individuals, satisfaction was lower or declined when they perceived more work-family conflict and greater demands from their families. The findings suggest that attachment insecurities predict dissatisfaction in new parents primarily when stressors block the pursuit of important attachment goals.

Kohn, J. L., Rholes, W. S., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2012). Self-regulatory depletion and attachment avoidance: Increasing the accessibility of negative attachment-related memories. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 375-378. [pdf]

Bowlby (1980) theorized that insecurely attached people use defensive memory suppression to cope with adverse events involving childhood attachment figures. In this study, defensive memory suppression was conceptualized as a form of self-regulation that, like other types of self-regulation, requires limited resources and may be undermined by the prior exercise of self-regulation. The findings of the study showed that, in the absence of self-regulatory depletion, memories of negative experiences with attachment figures were less accessible among persons who reported more dismissing avoidance. Under self-regulatory depletion, however, accessibility increased among persons high in dismissing avoidance. Depletion of self-regulatory capacity did not moderate memory accessibility for secure, preoccupied, or fearful avoidant attachment. The results imply that dismissing avoidant persons devote their limited self-regulatory resources to suppressing negative memories and keeping their attachment systems deactivated.

Rholes, W. S., Simpson, J. A., Kohn, J. L., Wilson, C. L., Martin, A. M., III, Tran, S., & Kashy, D. A. (2011). Attachment orientations and depression: A longitudinal study of new parents. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 567-586. [pdf]

In this longitudinal study, we followed a large sample of first-time parents (both partners) across the first 2 years of the transition to parenthood. Guided by attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969), we tested several predictions about how attachment anxiety and avoidance are related to the incidence, maintenance, increase, and decline of depressive symptoms in both sexes across the first 2 years of the transition. We found that (a) the association between attachment anxiety and depressive symptoms was moderated by factors related to the marital and/or romantic relationship; (b) the association between avoidance and depressive symptoms was moderated by factors related to family responsibilities; (c) styles of caregiving provided by romantic partners affected depressive symptoms differently among anxious and avoidant persons; and (d) in certain predictable situations, depressive symptoms persisted at higher levels or increased to higher levels in anxious or avoidant persons across the 2-year transition period. Important implications of these results are discussed.