Attachment, childhood adversity, emotional problems and personality disorder in offenders with mild intellectual disability

  • Lesley Steptoe

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this research is to examine attachment in offenders with mild intellectual disability. Insecure attachment is evidenced as a developmental risk factor with regard to antisociality, in the mainstream population. However there is a dearth of evidence with regard to attachment and the development of antisociality in offenders with intellectual disability (ID). Differences in
lifespan development and cognitive limitations may affect the development of attachment bonds in this group. This research explores attachment (measured retrospectively in childhood), relationships to perceived parenting, emotion and personality pathology in offenders with ID. Adaptation of an existing self report measure (Relationship Questionnaire) (RQ) resulted in the development of the ‘Adapted Relationship Questionnaire’ (ARQ). To test construct validity and reliability the ARQ and the RQ were administered to 60 university student participants. Participants rated each questionnaire with regard to retrospective childhood attachment, 41 additional participants filled in the ARQ only. No significant differences were found between categorical attachment ratings of attachment on the RQ and ARQ. A test of construct validity showed convergence between the ‘Fearful Avoidant’ and ‘Preoccupied’ attachment styles. Principal Components Analysis (Direct Oblimin) resulted in a three factor solution for the ARQ of ‘Secure’, ‘Anxious Avoidant and ‘Dismissing Avoidant’ attachment styles which showed Cronbach’s Alpha ratings of .69, .87 and .84 respectively. A control group (n25) of participants with mild ID, who had no offending history, and a group of offenders with ID (n38) completed the ARQ. Background, forensic and childhood adversity information was gathered from file review for offenders. The Parental Bonding Inventory (PBI) was completed by offenders with mild ID and the Emotional Problem Solving (EPS) scale and Interpersonal Adjectives Scale
(IAS) was completed by clinical staff involved in the support of the participant. Borderline and Antisocial Personality Disorder was assessed by consensus rating from file review, clinicians.
Date of AwardDec 2011
Original languageEnglish


  • Attachment
  • Offenders
  • Intellectual disability
  • Emotion
  • Personality disorder

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