Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Daniel S. Messinger

Second Committee Member

Jennifer C. Britton

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth Simpson

Fourth Committee Member

Michael Alessandri

Fifth Committee Member

Michael Cuccaro


Attachment in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has typically been assessed retrospectively after diagnosis (> 30 months), primarily using non-standardized protocols, making it difficult to interpret and compare across studies in normative and atypical samples. We assessed attachment security prospectively at 15 months in high-risk infants with later (3 year) ASD (High-Risk/ASD, n=16), and high- (High-Risk/No-ASD, n=40) and low-risk (Low-Risk/No-ASD, n=39) infants without later ASD- using the standard Strange Situation Procedure. High-Risk/ASD infants were disproportionately more likely to be classified as insecure (vs. secure, 2-way) and insecure-resistant (vs. secure vs. avoidant, 3-way) than High-Risk/No-ASD and Low-Risk/No-ASD (2-way, 56.3%, 15.0%, 20.5% respectively; 3-way, 37.5%, 7.5%, 10.3%, respectively). Compared to high- and low-risk infants without later ASD, high-risk infants with later ASD did not show less intense attachment behaviors with their parents, but were more likely to display insecure-resistant attachment. High-risk infants with insecure attachments were 7.28 times more likely to receive an ASD diagnosis than high-risk infants with secure attachments. As an index of early social-emotional functioning, attachment security in high-risk infants may serve as a potential behavioral marker and target for intervention.


ASD; attachment; Resistant classification; high-risk; prospective