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Toddler-mother attachment modulates adolescents’ evaluation of trustworthiness


This longitudinal study examined the prospective association between toddler–mother attachment to adolescents’ (n = 52; 34 boys; Mage = 13.22 years; 90% White) behavioral and neural responses during the evaluation of trustworthiness from unfamiliar, emotionally neutral faces. At 33 months, toddler–mother attachment status (secure vs insecure classification) was assessed using a modified Strange Situation procedure. Results revealed that attachment moderated the processing of trustworthiness facial cues. As faces became less trustworthy, adolescents with a secure (vs insecure) attachment history rated the faces as correspondingly less trustworthy and showed increasing (vs overall blunted) activation in brain regions involved in trustworthiness perception (i.e. bilateral amygdala, bilateral fusiform, right anterior insula and right posterior superior temporal sulcus). Findings suggest that a secure compared with insecure child–mother attachment in toddlerhood may be associated with greater capacity for, or openness to, processing potentially negative social information at both the behavioral and neural levels during adolescence.