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Relationship between executive function, attachment style, and psychotic like experiences in typically developing youth


Psychotic like experiences (PLE's) are common in the general population, particularly during adolescence, which has generated interest in how PLE's emerge, and the extent to which they reflect either risk for, or resilience to, psychosis. The "attachment-developmental-cognitive" (ADC) model is one effort to model the effect of risk factors on PLEs. The ADC model proposes attachment insecurity as an early environmental insult that can contribute to altered neurodevelopment, increasing the likelihood of PLE's and psychosis. In particular, early-life attachment disruptions may negatively impact numerous aspects of executive function (EF), including behavioral inhibition and emotion regulation. Yet despite the relationship of disrupted attachment to EF impairments, no studies have examined how these factors may combine to contribute to PLE's in adolescents. Here, we examined the relative contributions of daily-life EF and attachment difficulties (avoidance and anxiety) to PLEs in typically developing youth (N=52; ages 10-21). We found that EF deficits and high attachment insecurity both accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in PLE's, and interacted to predict PLE manifestation. Specifically, positive PLEs were predicted by greater trouble monitoring behavioral impact, less difficulty completing tasks, greater difficulty regulating emotional reactions, greater difficulty controlling impulses and higher attachment anxiety. Negative PLEs were predicted by greater difficulty in alternating attention, transitioning across situations, and regulating emotional reactions as well as higher attachment anxiety. These results are consistent with the ADC model, providing evidence that early-life attachment disruptions may impact behavioral regulation and emotional control, which together may contribute to PLEs.

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