What is it about?

The article focuses on disinhibited attachment behavior (DAB) in infants. DAB is a behavior characterized by a lack of reticence with strangers, limited behavioral differentiation among adults, lack of checking back with caregivers in unfamiliar situations, and, for some children, willingness to make physical contact with and/or go off with strangers. It is thought to be the result of non-optimal caregiving. DAB has primarily been studied among infants reared in institutions. Little is known about risk factors for DAB among infants reared at home, although former studies have linked DAB with maternal psychiatric hospitalization and maternal borderline personality disorder. We studied if DAB was higher in 1-year-old infants of mothers with severe mental illness (SMI) and in infants of mothers with high levels of personality disorder symptoms compared to infants of mothers in a nonclinical control group. We did not find higher levels of DAB in infants of mothers with SMI, but we did find higher levels of DAB in infants of mothers with high levels of personality disorder symptoms. Most of the mothers with high levels of personality symptoms also had SMI, so comorbidity might play a role in infant DAB.

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Why is it important?

DAB among infants is persistent and associated with behavioral and relational problems throughout childhood and adolescence; therefore, it is important to understand it better and try to prevent it.


Our study provided new knowledge, showing that DAB is also a risk for infants reared at home by mothers suffering from high personality disorder symptoms. This new knowledge supports the importance of early, well-targeted supportive interventions offered to mothers with personality disorders in order to prevent these serious deviations in infant attachment behavior. In future research, it is essential to understand better which aspect of early caregiving contributes to DAB.

Sofie Stender
University of Copenhagen

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Disinhibited attachment behavior among infants reared at home: Relations to maternal severe mental illness and personality disorder symptoms., Personality Disorders Theory Research and Treatment, February 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/per0000653.
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