Attachment in the brain: Adult attachment representations predict amygdala and behavioral responses to infant crying

Madelon M.E. Riem, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Dorothée Out, Serge A.R.B. Rombouts

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Current research found that adult attachment representations influence neural, emotional, and behavioral responses to infant crying, thus validating the Berkeley Adult Attachment Interview with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This study examined amygdala activation, feelings of irritation, and the use of excessive force as indicated by grip strength using a handgrip dynamometer during exposure to infant crying and scrambled control sounds in 21 women without children. Individuals with insecure attachment representations showed heightened amygdala activation when exposed to infant crying compared to individuals with secure attachment representations. In addition, insecure individuals experienced more irritation during infant crying and used more excessive force than individuals with a secure representation. Amygdala hyperactivity might be one of the mechanisms underlying the experience of negative emotions during exposure to infant crying in insecure individuals and might explain why insecure parents respond inconsistently to infant signals or reject their infants' attachment behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-551
Number of pages19
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes



  • AAI
  • adult attachment
  • amygdala
  • fMRI
  • infant crying

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