Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Psychology


This thesis examines the usefulness of attachment theory as an explanation of maternal reports of child oppositionality in a clinical sample. To provide a clinically convenient and accessible form of maternal attachment measurement a study involving university students was conducted to examine properties of Griffin and Bartholomew's (1994a) self-report attachment questionnaires in an Australian population. Results suggested the multifaceted nature of attachment models and a lower endorsement of the secure attachment classification than theoretically predicted.

A second study involved a group of mothers who presented their children to a mental health clinic with reports of oppositional behaviour. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1977) predicts that such mothers will possess an insecure attachment classification and will experience psychosocial difficulties such as depression and marital problems. Results did not demonstrate an association between self-report categorical maternal attachment classification, and reports of child behaviour, depression or marital problems. The thesis discusses: the problematic aspects of attachment theory in relation to intergenerational transmission of attachment style; singularity attachment need; methodological problems with the validity of instruments used to measure states of mind regarding attachment; the construct of maternal sensitivity as a determinant of secure attachment; and limitations in attachment explanations for children's disruptive behaviour.