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Attachment Security Priming: Testing a New Intervention for Children and Young People with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties

05 December 2019

Author: Emily Rebeccah Gold

The first chapter presents a systematic review of the literature exploring the effectiveness of attachment security priming in improving positive affect and reducing negative affect within children and adults.

The review searched four electronic databases for peer reviewed journal articles. Thirty empirical studies met inclusion criteria including 28 adult samples and two children and adolescent samples.

The findings demonstrated that overall attachment security priming was significantly more effective in improving positive affect and reducing negative affect in participants compared to control primes.

Half of the studies found that global attachment style moderated the impact of the prime, and repeated priming seemed to improve the effectiveness of the prime over time.

Based on these findings, I concluded that a combined priming approach (subliminal and supraliminal priming) and a repeated priming methodology would be advantageous in future research.

Additionally, more research is needed which explores the use of attachment security priming as a possible intervention to improve emotional wellbeing, especially with younger participants in real-life settings.

The empirical paper examined the effectiveness of attachment security priming in reducing anxious and depressed mood in children and young people with social, emotional and mental health difficulties aged 11 – 19 (N=100).

Two prime groups completed a mental imagery and written task; the experimental group visualised a security-inducing attachment figure, whilst the control group visualised a shopping trip.

Participants completed measures of anxious and depressed mood and felt security. The experimental group reported greater felt security compared to the control group following the prime, however, no significant differences were found between the prime groups on anxious and depressed mood.

The findings extend the evidence base in the fields of attachment security priming and affective mood states in children and young people.


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