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This study explores links between adults' attachment representations and the task of caring for elderly parents with dementia. Participants were 87 adults serving as primary caregivers of a parent or parent-in-law with dementia. Waters and Waters' ( 2006 ) Attachment Script Assessment was adapted to assess script-like attachment representation in the context of caring for their elderly parent. The quality of adult-elderly parent interactions was assessed using the Level of Expressed Emotions Scale (Cole & Kazarian, 1988 ) and self-report measures of caregivers' perception of caregiving as difficult. Caregivers' secure base script knowledge predicted lower levels of negative expressed emotion. This effect was moderated by the extent to which participants experienced caring for elderly parents as difficult. Attachment representations played a greater role in caregiving when caregiving tasks were perceived as more difficult. These results support the hypothesis that attachment representations influence the quality of care that adults provide their elderly parents. Clinical implications are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Attach Hum Dev

Publication Date





332 - 348


Adult, Adult Children, Aged, Caregivers, Dementia, Expressed Emotion, Female, Humans, Male, North Carolina, Object Attachment, Parent-Child Relations, Psychology, Child, Self Report, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires, Time