Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Geoff Goodman, PH.D.

Second Advisor

Fran Dalis, PSY.D.

Third Advisor

Carla Rentrop, PH.D.


Gender, attachment patterns and mental representations of close relationships have not previously been used to predict trauma symptomatology in early adolescents. In this study, 109 eighth grade students ages 12-13 (44% female) were recruited from a private Manhattan middle school for academically advantaged, ethnically diverse students. The study took place over the course of four years, with each new group of participants providing data in September of their eighth grade year. Participants reported on trauma symptoms and the affective valence of their mental representations of self and parents, and school staff reported on participants’ attachment patterns. While boys reported more positive affective valence of their parental and self mental representations and were reported to have less secure attachment, gender differences were not found regarding childhood trauma symptoms. There were significant negative correlations between preoccupied attachment and affective valence of parental and self mental representations as well as significant positive correlations between incoherent/disorganized and preoccupied attachment, respectively, and childhood trauma symptoms. Overall, incoherent/disorganized attachment predicted avoidance symptoms and hyperarousal, and preoccupied attachment predicted re-experiencing symptoms. Considering girls only, incoherent/disorganized attachment and affective valence of self mental representations were both predictive of childhood trauma symptoms, and preoccupied attachment predicted re-experiencing symptoms. These results indicate that therapists must take into account both attachment quality and mental representations for middle schoolers when treating childhood trauma symptoms. Considerations regarding gender, attachment, and mental representations when treating early adolescents experiencing trauma symptoms are discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons