Mentalization, emotional dysregulation and attachment to alternative attachment figures in retrospectively defined earned secure adults
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Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
Submission date: 2021-09-06
Final revision date: 2023-08-13
Acceptance date: 2023-09-14
Online publication date: 2023-10-27
Corresponding author
Monika Olga Jańczak   

Faculty of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
Researchers have tried to identify mechanisms through which an individual overcomes negative life experiences, proposing earning security as one of them. Retrospectively defined earned secures are recognized as individuals exhibiting secure attachments to their parents while evaluating the quality of their childhood care as low. This study aimed to examine at-tachment, mentalization, and emotional dysregulation in this group. We hypothesized that earned secures will report better mentalizing, lower emotion dysregulation, and more secure attachment to figures other than parents than insecure individuals.

Participants and procedure:
A female adult sample (N = 272) completed the Experiences in Close Relationships–Relationship Structures questionnaire, Parental Bonding Instrument, Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, and Mental State Task. The time devoted to psycho-therapy and demographics were also controlled as contextual variables.

We identified an ‘earned secure’ group (14% of the sample), exhibiting secure attachment to mothers in adulthood despite reported inadequate care during childhood, along with the continuously secure, insecure, and ‘lost secure’ groups. People from the earned secure and secure groups reported better emotional regulation and some aspects of mentalization than those in the insecure and lost secure groups. They equally frequently reported the presence of an adult other than parents who were important to them in childhood, but the attachment to them was more secure. We did not find evidence of differ-ences between the groups in the duration of psychotherapy.

Secure attachment to alternative attachment figures, along with some mentalization and emotional regulation aspects, may be considered significant factors for earning security.

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