What's in a word? Linguistic characteristics of Adult Attachment Interviews.


In the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George, Kaplan, & Main, 1984), state of mind with respect to attachment is assessed not on the basis of the content of the participant's narrative, but rather on the basis of the narrative's linguistic properties. The present study is the first to further explore linguistic characteristics of attachment state of mind in AAI narratives by examining participants' frequency of word usage within the categories of the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count text analysis program (LIWC; Pennebaker, Booth, & Francis, 2007). LIWC uses an internal dictionary to count words in conceptual categories and creates proportion scores for each category based on the total word count. Results from an examination of the AAI transcripts of 136 first-time mothers of infants indicated that (a) participants with secure, dismissing, and preoccupied AAI classifications significantly differed in their use of 14 of the 44 LIWC categories examined; (b) 10 LIWC categories were significantly correlated with AAI coherence of mind; and (c) AAI group assignment based on LIWC linguistic profiles yielded 71% agreement with AAI coders. We drew from existing AAI and LIWC research to interpret and discuss these intriguing findings.

DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2012.636649

Cite this paper

@article{Cassidy2012WhatsIA, title={What's in a word? Linguistic characteristics of Adult Attachment Interviews.}, author={Jude Cassidy and Laura Jernigan Sherman and Jason Deforest Jones}, journal={Attachment & human development}, year={2012}, volume={14 1}, pages={11-32} }