Anxious attachment style predicts an enhanced cortisol response to group psychosocial stress

Smyth, Nina, Thorn, Lisa, Oskis, Andrea ORCID logoORCID:, Hucklebridge, Frank, Evans, Phil and Clow, Angela (2015) Anxious attachment style predicts an enhanced cortisol response to group psychosocial stress. Stress, 18 (2) . pp. 143-148. ISSN 1025-3890 [Article] (doi:10.3109/10253890.2015.1021676)

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Insecure attachment style is associated with poor health outcomes. A proposed pathway implicates the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis), dysregulation of which is associated with a wide range of mental and physical ill-health. However, data on stress reactivity in relation to attachment style is contradictory. This relationship was examined using the novel Trier Social Stress Test for groups (TSST-G): a group based acute psychosocial stressor. Each participant, in the presence of other group members, individually performed public speaking and mental arithmetic tasks. Seventy-eight healthy young females (20.2 ± 3.2 years), in groups of up to six participants completed demographic information and the Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ), and were then exposed to the TSST-G. Physiological stress reactivity was assessed using salivary cortisol concentrations, measured on seven occasions at 10-min intervals. Vulnerable attachment predicted greater cortisol reactivity independent of age, smoking status, menstrual phase and body mass index. Supplementary analysis indicated that insecure anxious attachment style (high scores on the insecurity and proximity-seeking sub-scales of the VASQ) showed greater cortisol reactivity than participants with secure attachment style. Avoidant attachment style (high scores for insecurity and low scores for proximity seeking) was not significantly different from the secure attachment style. Attachment style was not associated with the timing of the cortisol peak or post-stress recovery in cortisol concentrations. These findings in healthy young females indicate subtle underlying changes in HPA axis function in relation to attachment style and may be important for future mental health and well-being.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
Item ID: 19590
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Stress on 11/032015, available online:
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Depositing User: Andrea Oskis
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2016 11:46
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 22:57

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