Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Lenore E. Walker

Second Advisor

Christian DeLucia

Third Advisor

David L Shapiro


attachment, attachment pattern, attachment style, battered woman, domestic abuse, domestic violence


One of the most debated constituents of intimate partner violence pertains to attachment theory. Although, attachment theory can provide a theoretical framework for understanding the linkage between childhood family experiences and subsequent experiences with partner violence, there are controversial perspectives as to whether attachment style is stable from childhood to adulthood (Bowlby, 1973, 1980, 1982) or if attachment style can be formulated directly from adult abusive relationships (Caspi & Elder, 1988; Ricks, 1985). Therefore, the purpose of this research was to explore how attachment style presents in the Battered Woman Syndrome, determine if the battered woman's attachment style is consistent throughout childhood to adulthood or if it is manifested due to intimate partner violence exposure as well as to determine how attachment style is manifested in interpersonal functioning and perceived power and control. The theory of learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975) was used as a conceptual model for understanding why battered women remain in abusive relationships. There were 137 female sample participants who reported a history of domestic violence. Measures administered included the Battered Woman Syndrome Questionnaire (BWSQ, Walker, 1978) that assessed childhood history, interpersonal functioning and power and control and the Revised Adult Attachment Scale (Collins and Read, 1996) that assessed the participant's attachment style. Statistical techniques employed included latent class analysis, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression. Results indicated that aversive childhood environment (as measured primarily by childhood battering variables) and involvement in adulthood abusive relationships were significantly related to childhood environment and involvement in adulthood abusive relationships. Across all five adulthood battering episodes there were significant overall effects of attachment style on sexual abuse scores. Results also confirmed the hypotheses that insecurely attached participants were more likely to report more interpersonal functioning difficulties and lower perceived power and control when compared to secure participants. Implications for future research are also presented.

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