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Journal cover: Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282
Previously published as: Advances in Mental Health and Learning Disabilities

Online from: 2010

Subject Area: Health and Social Care

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Attachment style and mental health in adults with intellectual disability: self-reports and reports by carers

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Title:Attachment style and mental health in adults with intellectual disability: self-reports and reports by carers
Author(s):Felicity V. Larson, (CIDDRG, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK), Nadja Alim, (South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Behavioural and Developmental Psychiatry Clinical Academic Group, London, UK and is based at the Mental Health in Learning Disabilities Lewisham Psychology Team), Elias Tsakanikos, (ESTIA Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK and Department of Psychology, Roehampton University, London, UK)
Citation:Felicity V. Larson, Nadja Alim, Elias Tsakanikos, (2011) "Attachment style and mental health in adults with intellectual disability: self-reports and reports by carers", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 5 Iss: 3, pp.15 - 23
Keywords:Attachment theory, Intellectual disabilities, Learning disability, Mental health services, Mental illness
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/20441281111142585 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:The authors would like to thank the service users and staff of EPIC Trust, the Bede Centre, CamTrust, Mencap, CityLit, Morley College and Granta Housing Society for their contribution to this research.

Purpose – This pilot study aimed to investigate whether adults with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities could accurately self-report their attachment style. It explored whether there is a relationship between attachment style and challenging behaviour and/or mental health problems. Additionally, the paper examines the distribution of attachment styles in people with intellectual disabilities, based on the hypothesis that it might be different to that of the general population.

Design/methodology/approach – Adults with intellectual disabilities (n=60) and people who supported them (n=39) completed questionnaires based on Hazan and Shaver's attachment categories and mental health diagnoses. Supporters also provided information about challenging behaviour.

Findings – People with mild/moderate intellectual disabilities show the same range of attachment styles as the general population. Links between challenging behaviour and insecure attachment were found, and there was an association between depression and insecure-avoidant attachment.

Originality/value – Applications of attachment theory in individual therapy and at a policy level are explored in light of the findings, as well as directions for future research. There appears to be a relationship between insecure attachment and depression in people with intellectual disabilities. This has implications for the psychological treatment of people with intellectual disabilities and interventions should be developed that focus on attachment relationships. Attachment behaviour may not be linked to challenging behaviour as directly as has been previously suggested, certainly for people with mild moderate intellectual disabilities.

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