Purdue University Graduate School

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Investigating a Common Structure of Personality Pathology and Attachment

posted on 2021-05-05, 16:30 authored by Madison S SmithMadison S Smith

Attachment and personality disorders (PDs) both describe patterns of interpersonal dysfunction. Indeed, there are many similarities and few differences between these constructs, suggesting that they may represent two iterations of a common dimension. However, the paucity of empirical tests on this topic has precluded integration of clinical efforts. Also limiting clinical efforts is the inability to target individuals and relationships most prone to dysfunction. The current study used a large sample (N=812) of unselected undergraduates (N=355) and adults currently in psychological treatment (N=457) to test whether a joint hierarchical factor structure of attachment and PDs is tenable and whether it varies reliably by gender, treatment status, or attachment figure. Results suggested that attachment and PDs can be quantified jointly in specific instances of emotional lability and detachment, but attachment was not isomorphic with antagonistic, impulsigenic, or psychosis-spectrum traits. This joint structure was relatively consistent across attachment figures and treatment status but varied somewhat across gender. Clinical applications of these findings on commonalities of interpersonal dysfunction are discussed.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Psychological Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Susan C. South

Additional Committee Member 2

Douglas Samuel

Additional Committee Member 3

Sean P. Lane

Additional Committee Member 4

Sien C. Tay

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