The role of attachment avoidance: A longitudinal mediation model predicting existential distress in patients with advanced cancer


OBJECTIVE: Although a protective effect of reliable interpersonal relationships on existential distress has been established, evidence remains inconclusive for attachment insecurity as an underlying factor of persistent psychological distress. We tested a longitudinal model hypothesizing attachment avoidance as a mediator of high demoralization and anxiety over time.

METHODS: We studied 206 patients with advanced cancer (mean age = 59.6, 61% female) participating in an intervention trial. Patients completed self-report measures for demoralization, anxiety, perceived relatedness, attachment insecurity, and death anxiety. Our mediated path model included perceived relatedness and death anxiety at baseline as predictors, attachment avoidance at baseline as mediator, and demoralization and anxiety at 6-month follow-up (N = 125) as outcomes.

RESULTS: Attachment avoidance partially mediated the relationship between death anxiety and demoralization (β = 0.07, 95% CI 0.02-0.12) and anxiety (β = 0.05, 95% CI 0.001-0.10). Findings for perceived relatedness were less conclusive. Its indirect effects through attachment avoidance were significant for both outcomes (demoralization: β = -0.07, 95% CI -0.13 to -0.02, anxiety: β = -0.05, 95% CI -0.11 to -0.003).

CONCLUSIONS: Due to its trait-like quality, attachment avoidance may play a less central role in explaining the course of existential distress over time than previous research indicated. Addressing change-sensitive relational concerns in psychosocial interventions may be more effective to alleviate existential distress.

Bibliografische Daten

StatusVeröffentlicht - 07.2021
PubMed 33507601