Adult Attachment Dimensions: Differential Effects on Physiological and Subjective Response During the Recollection of Childhood Memories


  • Pierpaolo Congia


The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between adult attachment dimensions and emotional response induced by the recall of potentially painful memories from childhood. A convenience sample of 100 women responded to an interview that focused on experiences with their caregivers during childhood, and a control interview, in counterbalanced order. Skin conductance level (SCL), heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV), as well as subjective distress measures were collected. Results from generalized linear mixed model indicated that individuals high in avoidance showed a pattern of SCL increase from baseline that persisted during rest phases regardless of the topic addressed. Attachment dimensions did not affect HR, neither alone nor interacting with the interviews content, whereas baseline resting vagal tone was the most important factor. No attachment dimensions effects were observed on subjective measures of emotion; the time-varying vagal tone during rest phases did not moderate their relationships. Limited evidence was observed in support of the hypothesis that attachment Avoidance and Anxiety are associated with distinct physiological regulation profiles during the recall of potentially painful childhood memories.