Attachment style, perceptions of vulnerability, and personality functioning in survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer
This study utilized attachment theory to predict individual differences in vulnerability perceptions and personality functioning following a serious and chronic illness. Ninety-nine young adult survivors of pediatric cancer completed questionnaires that were sent to their homes. Subjects classified as anxious ambivalent tended to rate their vulnerability for potential future problems as higher than avoidant subjects and reported less satisfaction than other participants with the amount of emotional support received while ill. Anxious ambivalent attachment was also associated with distress, a lack of well-being, and a desire for control. The avoidant attachment style was related to interpersonal distance, a preference for impulsiveness over control, and an inclination toward claiming unlikely personal virtues. In contrast, secure relationship functioning was associated with social closeness, low levels of distress, and reports of receiving as much comfort as desired during the cancer experience. Securely attached survivors also reported significantly fewer posttraumatic intrusion and avoidance reactions than avoidant and anxious ambivalent participants. These findings support the hypothesis that insecure attachment serves as a vulnerability, interfering with an individual's ability to work through a traumatic experience.