Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Attachment security and disorganization in maltreating and high-risk families: A series of meta-analyses

Chantal Cyra1a2 c1, Eveline M. Eusera1, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburga1 and Marinus H. Van Ijzendoorna1 c1

a1 Leiden University

a2 University of Québec at Montréal


The current meta-analytic study examined the differential impact of maltreatment and various socioeconomic risks on attachment security and disorganization. Fifty-five studies with 4,792 children were traced, yielding 59 samples with nonmaltreated high-risk children (n = 4,336) and 10 samples with maltreated children (n = 456). We tested whether proportions of secure versus insecure (avoidant, resistant, and disorganized) and organized versus disorganized attachments varied as a function of risks. Results showed that children living under high-risk conditions (including maltreatment studies) showed fewer secure (d = 0.67) and more disorganized (d = 0.77) attachments than children living in low-risk families. Large effects sizes were found for the set of maltreatment studies: maltreated children were less secure (d = 2.10) and more disorganized (d = 2.19) than other high-risk children (d = 0.48 and d = 0.48, respectively). However, children exposed to five socioeconomic risks (k = 8 studies, d = 1.20) were not significantly less likely to be disorganized than maltreated children. Overall, these meta-analyses show the destructive impact of maltreatment for attachment security as well as disorganization, but the accumulation of socioeconomic risks appears to have a similar impact on attachment disorganization.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Chantal Cyr, Department of Psychology, University of Québec at Montréal, Case Postale 8888, Succ. Centreville, Montréal H3C 3P8, Canada; E-mail:; or Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands; E-mail:


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (to C.C.). The work of Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg and Marinus van IJzendoorn on this manuscript was supported by research awards from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (VIDI Grant 452-04-306 to M.J.B.K., NWO SPINOZA prize to M.H.v.IJ). We thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on our paper.