Attachment security and problematic substance use in low-income, suicidal, African American women

Suena H. Massey*, Michael T. Compton, Nadine J. Kaslow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives While secure attachment may buffer the effect of adverse early experiences on the development of behavioral problems in children, whether attachment security may provide resilience against problematic substance use in adulthood is less clear, and addressed by this study. Methods We examined relations between attachment security and problematic substance use in 356 African American women recruited for a suicide prevention/intervention study. Problematic substance use was defined as a positive screen on either the Brief Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test or the Drug Abuse Screening Test-10. Attachment security was assessed using the Secure Subscale of the Relationship Scales Questionnaire. Associations between demographic and psychosocial variables (age, education, unemployment, homelessness, attachment security, past childhood maltreatment, current exposure to intimate partner violence, and depressive symptoms) and problematic substance use were determined using logistic regression analyses. Results Participants averaged 35.1 ± 10.0 years of age, and exhibited significant psychosocial challenges. More secure attachment was independently associated with a lower likelihood of problematic drug use (OR = .516, 95% CI (.343-.777), p ≤ .01); and the problematic use of either alcohol or drugs (OR = .563, 95% CI (.374-.849), p ≤ .01). Attachment security, along with childhood maltreatment, age, and homelessness, accounted for 25.5% of the variance in problematic substance use. Discussion and Conclusions Participants who reported greater attachment security were significantly less likely to engage in problematic substance use. Scientific Significance Future research should explore attachment security as a resilience factor against problematic substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-299
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal on Addictions
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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