The effect of childhood emotional maltreatment on romantic relationships in young adulthood: A double mediation model involving self-criticism and attachment. Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective: Despite growing recognition of the importance of childhood emotional maltreatment (CEM) on the development of psychopathology, very few studies have addressed its impact on adult romantic relationship functioning, particularly among otherwise relatively well-functioning individuals. In an attempt to further elucidate the mechanism underlying the negative impact of CEM on romantic relationships, we tested an integrative mediational model linking CEM to romantic relationships through the impact of CEM on the development of self-criticism and adult attachment. Recent work in this context suggests that while self-criticism concerns broad cognitive-affective schemas related to achievement and failure, attachment avoidance assesses the expression of these broad schemas in close relationships (Luyten & Blatt, 2011; Sibley & Overall, 2008, 2010). Method: This hypothesized mediational model was examined in a sample of young adult undergraduates (N = 99, 85 female), using structural equation modeling. Results: The mediational model was in large part supported. Attachment avoidance, but not attachment anxiety, fully accounted for the mediating role of self-criticism in the relationship between CEM and romantic relationship satisfaction, even when controlling for the potential role of concurrent levels of posttraumatic stress disorder severity. Conclusions: Understanding the long-term psychological dynamics related to CEM and identifying mediating vulnerability factors-self-criticism and attachment avoidance-might have implications for both the assessment and treatment of individuals with a history of CEM, particularly as effective interventions to address self-criticism and attachment issues are available. (PsycINFO Database Record

publication date

  • January 1, 2016