Attachment and emotional regulation: examining the role of prefrontal cortex functions, executive functions, and mindfulness in their relationship

Author: Nesrin Hisli Sahin1, Anthony F Tasso2, Murat Guler3
1 School of Psychology and Counseling, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, USA.
2 School of Psychology and Counseling, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, USA.
3 Department of Business Administration, Niğde Ömer Halisdemir University, Niğde, Turkey.
Conference/Journal: Cogn Process
Date published: 2023 Jun 27
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s10339-023-01144-2. , Word Count: 255

Attachment is a prominent area of psychological research, with its relevance linked to executive functions, mindfulness, and emotional regulation. The purpose of this study is to examine this relationship among these aforementioned four constructs and propose a model to be tested in the future. Based on the current trends using the Interpersonal Neurobiology approach, which assumes prefrontal cortex functions to include other socioemotional resources such as empathy, morality, insight, behavior, and body regulation. Our study included prefrontal cortical functions alongside executive functions. The assessment instruments used were Attachment-Based Cognitive Representations Scale, Prefrontal Cortex Functions Scale, Webexec, Five Facet Mindfulness Scale, and Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale. We hypothesized that attachment would be the strongest predictor of emotional regulation. The participants in the study were 539 college students (mean = 20.21; sd = 1.57); (68% female and 32%, male). Our a priori research hypothesis was supported, with an additional finding that trait mindfulness was also a significant predictor. The strongest correlations with attachment styles were with trait mindfulness and emotional regulation. We conducted path analyses of two different models for secure and insecure attachment. The path analyses showed that secure attachment scores were negatively related, and insecure attachment scores were positively related to difficulties in emotional regulation scores. Furthermore, trait mindfulness and prefrontal cortex functions also mediated this relationship. However, there was no significant relationship between executive functions and difficulties in emotional regulation scores, even though it was significantly related to attachment. Results and implications are discussed.

Keywords: Attachment; Emotional regulation; Executive functions; Mindfulness; Prefrontal cortex functions.

PMID: 37368059 DOI: 10.1007/s10339-023-01144-2