Relationship between childhood emotional abuse and self-esteem: A dual mediation model of attachment

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Chuqi Liu
Xiaodan Chen
Pingfang Song
Aitao Lu
Lu Wang
Xinyi Zhang
Zirong Huang
Dongping Zheng
Cite this article:  Liu, C., Chen, X., Song, P., Lu, A., Wang, L., Zhang, X., Huang, Z., & Zheng, D. (2018). Relationship between childhood emotional abuse and self-esteem: A dual mediation model of attachment. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 46(5), 793-800.


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We tested the hypothesis that childhood emotional abuse would be positively associated with fearful attachment, whereas it would be negatively associated with secure attachment and self-esteem, with attachment mediating the linkage between childhood emotional abuse and self-esteem. Chinese college students (N = 554) completed measures of childhood emotional abuse, secure/fearful attachment, and self-esteem. Dual mediation analysis based on 5,000 bootstrap samples showed that childhood emotional abuse affected self-esteem through both secure attachment and fearful attachment, with the indirect effect through secure attachment being stronger relative to that through fearful attachment. However, the direct effect of childhood emotional abuse on self-esteem was nonsignificant. The association patterns among childhood emotional abuse, secure/fearful attachment, and self-esteem show the need for more focus on developing children’s secure attachment style to shape their positive self-esteem later in life.

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