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77. Alexithymia and Maternal Attachment as Mediators in the Relationship Between Child Maltreatment and Bipolar Symptomatology in Young Adults
Background: Risk for bipolar disorder has been linked to a number of environmental factors, including early childhood trauma, alexithymia, and insecure attachment styles. Few studies have examined all of these variables together within the same sample. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to examine the interrelationships between child maltreatment (CM), attachment, alexithymia, and bipolar symptomatology, as well as the possible mediating roles of current alexithymia and maternal attachment in the relationship between CM and symptoms of bipolar disorder in young adulthood. Methods: College students (N = 291) completed the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS), the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA), and the General Behavior Inventory (GBI). Results: Among participants, 48% reported a history of one or more types of CM. As expected, higher GBI scores were associated with greater CM severity and alexithymia, and poorer maternal attachment. A series of linear regression analyses were performed to explore the independent contributions of maternal attachment and alexithymia on the relationship between CM and later mood dysregulation on the GBI. In the first model, both CM and attachment significantly predicted later mood dysregulation on the GBI. The second model was also significant, with CM and alexithymia being significant predictors of GBI scores. However, when alexithymia and maternal attachment were entered together with CM, the initially significant impact of CM disappeared, with only TAS and IPPA scores remaining as significant predictors, accounting for 20.2% of the variance in mood dysregulation on the GBI. Conclusions: CM is a significant contributor to later mood dysregulation, however the quality of maternal relationships and the ability to understand one’s emotional state appear to be significant mediators of this relationship when both are present. Findings highlight the importance of early adverse experiences, but also point to later problematic parent-child relationships and poor emotional understanding as important risk factors for bipolar symptomology in adulthood.