Attachment & violent offending: A meta-analysis



Claire A. Hamill, Emily Newman, Lynda Todd, David Peck

Aggression and Violent Behavior

18 April 2014



•We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on attachment and violent offending

•Offenders were less secure in their attachments than controls

•Insecure attachment was strongly associated with all types of criminality

•This association was still present in the absence of mental disorder


Attachment theory provides a useful framework for understanding violence as it acknowledges the importance of both interpersonal and developmental factors. The literature suggests that attachment is associated with violence, but the research evidence is equivocal as to whether insecure attachment was a risk factor for criminality, psychopathology more generally, or both. The current study therefore conducted a systematic review of the literature using meta-analytic methods. Results indicated that insecure attachment was strongly associated with all types of criminality (i.e. sexual offending, violent offending, non-violent offending, and domestic violence) even in the absence of psychopathology. Further sub-group analyses indicated differences in attachment patterns between sexual offenders and violent offenders, for example. The implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions for further research are made.





Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee