Adult Attachment Representations and the Quality of Romantic and Parent-Child Relationships: An Examination of the Contributions of Coherence of Discourse and Secure Base Script Knowledge

Theo Waters, K. Lee Raby, Sarah K. Ruiz, Jodi Martin, Glenn I. Roisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Attachment theory suggests that early experiences with caregivers are carried forward across development in the form of mental representations of attachment experiences. Researchers have investigated at least two representation-based constructs when studying attachment and successful adaptation in adulthood: (a) coherence of autobiographical discourse/memories and (b) knowledge of the secure base script. Here, we present data examining the unique contributions of coherent discourse regarding childhood caregiving experience and secure base script knowledge in a prospective high-risk longitudinal study, the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation. The current study included three indicators of the quality of romantic relationships: (a) observed quality of interaction with romantic partners, (b) selfreported relationship satisfaction, and (c) interview-rated effectiveness of romantic engagement. Parent- child relationship quality was also assessed across three key outcomes: (a) infant attachment security, (b) observations of supportive parenting, and (c) interview-rated supportive parenting. When examining both attachment representations simultaneously, each representation-based construct was uniquely associated with different relationship quality indices. Specifically, secure base script knowledge was uniquely associated with infant attachment security in the next generation, and coherence of discourse was uniquely associated with observations of romantic relationships quality and interview-rated supportive parenting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Adult attachment interview
  • Attachment
  • Parenting
  • Romantic relationships
  • Secure base script

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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