Development and Validation of a Retrospective Visual Scale of Attachment: Adaptation of the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA; Armsden and Greenberg, 1987)

  • Clio Owen

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


Attachment types vary from secure to avoidant, anxious and disorganised (Ainsworth, 1969; Bowlby, 1978), and bear significant impact on adult wellbeing. In clinical practice, adult attachment styles resulting from childhood bonding experiences are measured in relation to the quality of peer and romantic relationships, thus providing a starting point for mental health therapies (Oldfield, Humprey and Hebron, 2016). The current study attempted to develop and validate of a visual scale to measure parent-child attachment, retrospectively, in an adult population. The visual scale was developed with use of an existing measure of attachment, the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA; Armsden and Greenberg, 1987), which measures the constructs of Trust, Communication and Alienation. The new visual scale measured the same constructs, adapting the IPPA’s Likert-scale verbal responses ranging from ‘Always True’ to ‘Never / Not True', by presenting vignettes depicting an interaction between an adult and a child, in black and white sketch format. Thus, participants responded by indicating which image best represented their memory of, for example, communication during childhood with the primary caregiver. By developing a visual scale, it is hoped that images can accurately tap into the constructs being measured to offer a further insight into the individual attachment experiences rather than just the use of words. It is also hoped that the visual scale will be useful for use with participants who may struggle with language and worded responses. The original IPPA uses a 5-point Likert scale. The Visual scale was implemented using both a 3-point and a 5-point response format, delivered separately to different groups of participants. The 3-point scale was produced to offer a comparison of responses; specifically, to assess whether 3 response options would produce results as accurate and reliable as offering 5 response options, with a view to gaining insight into one’s attachment experiences. Again, individuals who may struggle with words may in turn find a 3-point scale easier to complete. One-hundred-and-eighty-six adults from the general population and without a diagnosed mental health condition completed an online survey implementing both the original (verbal) IPPA questionnaire and the novel Visual scale adaptation. The 3-point scale was presented for comparison. Correlation analysis showed that patterns across all four scales was consistent with validated
IPPA data. Communication and Trust correlated positively and significantly, whilst both of these correlated negatively and significantly with Alienation. Cronbach alpha showed internal consistency throughout all variables within all scales and eigenvalues displayed within Factor analysis indicate that the scales items can be measured through one overall latent variable, the quality of the attachment bond, rather than the three separate concepts. Overall, the novel Visual scale showed promising results in the potential application to clinical settings in future, making these kinds of measurements more accessible to as well as potentially more emotion evoking and therefore more accurate at measuring childhood attachment styles retrospectively in adults. The use of a larger number of sub-construct items within the Visual questionnaire was identified as a key area for improvement to support further development and validation in future.
Date of Award2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJiaqing O (Supervisor), Catherine O'Hanlon (Supervisor) & Gareth Hall (Supervisor)


  • childhood attachment
  • attachment figue
  • visual scale
  • inventory of parent and peer attachmen
  • retrospective attachment
  • trust
  • communication
  • alienation

Cite this