Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Amy Mezulis, Ph.D.

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Jenny Vaydich, PhD.

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Beverly Wilson, Ph.D.


Internalizing and externalizing problems impact functioning and health in adolescence. Therefore, understanding risk and protective factors related to these behaviors is of practical interest. The proposed study examined the relationship between parent-adolescent attachment security, self-regulation capacity, and internalizing and externalizing problems. Previous studies have supported prospective links between parent-child attachment security and self-regulation capacities. Similarly, self-regulation is as a protective factor from internalizing and externalizing problems. This study proposed a mediation model combining these findings. It was hypothesized that youth with stronger parent-adolescent attachment security would demonstrate fewer internalizing and externalizing problems, and that this relationship would be mediated by better physiological self-regulation capacity among youth with stronger attachment. Attachment was measured through parent report of their own attachment behaviors, and child report of attachment security with their parents. Results supported the hypothesis that greater parent-adolescent attachment security would be related to fewer internalizing (cross-sectional β = -3.38, p < .00; longitudinal β = -4.34, p < .00) and externalizing problems (cross-sectional β = -3.63, p < .00; longitudinal β = -3.92, p < .00). However, results including physiological self-regulation capacity were unexpected. Child rated attachment security was not significantly related to regulation capacity (β = -.16, p = 0.28); while, greater parent attachment behaviors were significantly related to poorer, not better, physiological self-regulation capacity (β = -.31, p = 0.02). Mediation analyses revealed two models trending towards significance; though no models reached significance based on a 95% confidence interval. Models trending toward significance included the effect of parent attachment behaviors on externalizing problems through physiological self-regulation capacity prospectively (β = .18, 95% CI [-.02, .57]) and concurrently (β = -.24, 95% CI [-.80, .08]). However, within these models, greater parent attachment behaviors were related to lower, not greater, physiological self-regulation capacity, making theoretical interpretation of findings less clear. Interpretation and implications of these findings are discussed.