Masters Thesis

Attachment and coping: predictors of memory for emotional events

Memory research has shown mixed results concerning how emotional information is processed (see Christianson, 1992, for review). One individual difference found to relate to emotional processing (Belsky et al., 1997; Laible, 2004) and understanding (de Rosnay & Harris, 2002) is attachment security. Further, because coping strategies are believed to reflect behavioral outcomes of emotion regulation (Contreras et al., 2000), how children cope with emotional situations may also predict their memory for such experiences. The present study aimed to examine attachment qualities and coping strategies as individual differences predicting recall of emotional and attachment-related events. Children ranging from 7.5- to 12.5-years of age viewed a slideshow exhibiting stories that varied in emotion and attachment relatedness. The following week, children were asked to freely recall the pictures and stories, and they completed attachment and coping measures. Results showed children's attachment security predicted recall of high attachment-related events, specifically separation scenarios. To understand better these results, attachment security was divided into subscales for parental availability and children's dependency. Findings indicated that children who perceived the parent as more available recalled more attachment-related stimuli, specifically those involving separation. These results indicate that attachment-related events may be processed differently than emotional, but less attachment evoking events, and that memory for such events may be influenced by individual differences in attachment security, particularly how available the child perceives the caregiver.