The impact of attachment styles and defense mechanisms on psychological distress in a non-clinical young adult sample: A path analysis

G. Ciocca, R. Rossi, A. Collazzoni, F. Gorea, B. Vallaj, P. Stratta, L. Longo, E. Limoncin, D. Mollaioli, D. Gibertoni, E. Santarnecchi, F. Pacitti, C. Niolu, A. Siracusano, E.A. Jannini, G. Di Lorenzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Insecure attachment styles and immature or neurotic defense mechanisms are related to psychological distress. However, their mutual interaction in influencing psychological distress deserves further investigation. Methods: One-thousand-one-hundred-twenty-nine University students were evaluated using the Global Severity Index of Symptoms Check List 90-Revised for psychological distress, Relationship Questionnaire for attachment styles and Defense Style Questionnaire for defense mechanisms. Following exploratory analyses, a Path Analysis was performed with psychological distress as outcome. Results: Fearful and preoccupied attachment styles had a substantial impact on psychological distress. About 30% of their effect was mediated by Immature and Neurotic defenses, with the former having the major effect. Dismissing attachment showed no substantial effect on psychological distress. Secure Attachment and Mature Defenses had a small protective effect on psychological distress, but their inclusion in the path model did not improve overall goodness-of-fit. Attachment style and defense mechanisms accounted for nearly 25% of the variance in psychological distress. Conclusions: The results showed that attachment styles and defense mechanisms have a substantial impact on psychological distress. The effect of attachment style is mediated by defense mechanisms. Individual differences in attachment style and defense mechanisms represent risk factors for psychological distress in young adults.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)384-390
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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