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AQC - Attachment Questionnaire for Children

The AQC is a 1-item self-report measure of children’s attachment style that is based on Hazan & Shaver’s (1987) single item measure of adult attachment style. Children are given three descriptions of feelings and perceptions about relationships with other children and are asked to choose the description that best fits them. The measure classifies children according to one of three attachment styles: Secure, Avoidant, or Ambivalent.




Muris, P., Meesters, C., van Melick, M., & Zwambag, L.

Muris, P., Meesters, C., van Melick, M., Zwambag, L. (2001). Selfreported attachment style, attachment quality, and symptoms of anxiety and depression in young adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 30, 809-818.

Domain Assessed: 
Externalizing Symptoms
Subcategories of Domains Assessed: 
Age Range: 
Measure Type: 
Measure Format: 


Number of Items: 
Average Time to Complete (min): 
Reporter Type: 
Average Time to Score (min): 
Not provided
Response Format: 

1-answer format (i.e., chose one description that best describes you).

Materials Needed: 
Sample Items: 
DomainScaleSample Items
AttachmentSecure AttachmentI find it easy to become close friends with other children. I trust them and I am comfortable depending on them. I do not worry about being abandoned or about another child getting too close friends with me.
Avoidant AttachmentI am uncomfortable to be close friends with other children. I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to depend on them. I get nervous when another child wants to become close friends with me. Friends often come more close to me than I want them to.
Ambivalent AttachmentI often find that other children do not want to get as close as I would like them to be. I am often worried that my best friend doesn't really like me and wants to end our friendship. I prefer to do everything together wiht my best friend. However, this desire sometimes scares other children away.

Parallel or Alternate Forms

Parallel Forms: 
Alternate Forms: 
Different Age Forms: 
Altered Version Forms: 
Alternative Forms Description: 

As noted, the AQC is an adapted version of the Attachment Questionnaire (AQ), a single-item measure of attachment patterns in adults (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). The wording used by Muris et al. (2001) is very similar to that of the original version, the primary difference being that the original AQ focused on romantic love, whereas the AQC focuses on friendships with other children. The original AQ has been adapted for use with children by other authors.

  1. Finzi, Har-Even, Weizman, Tyano, & Shnit (1996) developed a 15-item questionnaire, with 5 items for each attachment style. This version is also reviewed in the database under the title “Attachment Style Classification Questionnaire.”
  2. Sharpe, T. M., Killen, J. D., Bryson, S.W., Shisslak, C. M., Estes, L. S., Gray, N., Crago, M., & Taylor, C. B. (1998) used the AQ descriptions but simplified them with wording very similar to that of Muris et al. (2001). Data on this altered version are presented in the Notes under “Construct Validity.”

There is an AQC educator version: a revised version of the AQC for use with parents, caregivers, and teachers. In this version, the adult chooses the description that best describes the attachment style for the child in question (Muris & Maas, 2004). The descriptive statements are slightly modified to reflect that caregivers/teachers are reporting on children. Data on this altered version are presented in the Notes under “Construct Validity.”


Notes on Psychometric Norms: 

Not applicable, only 1 item.

Internal Consistency
Inter-raterAcceptableSpearman's Correlation0.370.370.37
Parallel/Alternate Forms
References for Reliability: 


There is no published data regarding test-retest reliability.


Because the AQC is a 1-item measure, Cronbach's alpha cannot be computed (Muris et al., 2001, p. 813).


In a sample of 280 adolescents and their parents, the correspondence between child and parent ratings of attachment using the AQC and the AQC-P was low but significant (percent agreement=70.4%, kappa=.32, Spearman’s correlation = .37; Muris & Meesters, 2002). Correlations are presented in the table because correlations are what is most often reported in the database for other measures.

Muris & Maas (2004) report low agreement between caregivers and teachers for a sample of 39 institutionalized and 40 non-institutionalized Dutch children with mental retardation. Agreement between caregiver and teacher reports was as follows: percent agreement=60.1%, kappa=.16.

References for Content Validity: 

The AQC is based on the AQ, with only minor modifications to wording.

Construct Validity: 
Validity TypeNot knownNot foundNonclinical SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Sensitive to Change
Intervention Effects
Longitudinal/Maturation Effects
Sensitive to Theoretically Distinct GroupsYes
Factorial Validity
References for Construct Validity: 

The AQC has shown evidence of concurrent validity with the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA), Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale (SCAS), and the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) in a non-clinical population of 155 adolescents ranging in age from 12 to 14 years from a regular secondary school.

Adolescents classified as securely attached, based on AQC responses, had higher levels of trust and lower levels of alienation, as assessed using the IPPA. They also had lower scores on Anxiety (SCAS) and Depression (CDI) than did insecurely attached adolescents. Ambivalently attached adolescents had higher levels of SCAS and CDI symptomatology than did Securely or Avoidantly attached adolescents (Muris et al., 2001).

Across different studies, children who define themselves as insecurely attached display higher levels of anxiety, worry, and depression than those who identify themselves as securely attached (Muris, Mayer, & Meesters, 2000; Muris, Meesters, Merckelbach, & Hülsenbeck, 2000).

Muris, Mayer, & Meesters (2000) found that insecurely attached children had higher scores on the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Disorders and Depression Questionnaire for Children. In a large sample of 724 adolescents aged 12-18 (M=14.45, SD=1.39), Muris, Meesters, & van den Berg (2003) reported that securely attached children reported lower scores on the Youth Self-Report scales (Internalizing, Externalizing, Anxious-depressed, Somatic complaints, Aggressive behavior, and Delinquent behavior).

Muris & Meesters (2000) found that for both adolescent and parent reports, there was a connection between attachment status and behavioral inhibition and anxiety symptoms, as assessed, using the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale (RADS). AQC classifications accounted for unique variance in the prediction of anxiety disorders when RADS scores were predicted using Attachment classification and a measure of Behavioral Inhibition. Muris, Meesters, Merckelbach, & Hülsenbeck (2000) reported that insecure attachment was related to children’s worries, as assessed using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire for Children.

Attachment categories also appear to be related, as expected, to aspects of the parent-child relationship. Attachment categories are related to scores on the Egna Minnen Betraffende Uppfostran (EMBU-C), a measure that assesses perceptions of parental rearing behaviors. Securely attached adolescents perceived their parents as more emotionally warm and less rejecting and overprotective (Muris, Meesters, & van den Berg, 2003).

In a study of 159 predominantly Caucasian children aged 9 to 13, recruited from primary schools in the Netherlands, ambivalently attached children reported more reported more anxious rearing by mothers and fathers (EMBU-C) than did securely attached children), and avoidant children reported greater perceived rejection from both their mothers and fathers (Muris et al., 2000).


  1. A variation of the adult AQ with very similar wording has also been used in a study examining the relation between attachment style and weight concern in an ethnically diverse sample of 355 4th- to 8th-grade girls, mean age = 11.9 (37.8% White, 25.7% Latina, 21.7% Asian, 5.9% African American, and 8.9% Other). In this study 68% of girls were classified as securely attached and 32% were classified as insecurely attached. Insecurely attached girls had significantly lower self-esteem scores and higher weight concerns than did securely attached girls (Sharpe et al., 1998). Given that the wording is so similar to the version reviewed in this report because both are based on the adult AQ, it is likely that the psychometric findings would be similar to the version reviewed.
  2. An educator/caregiver version of the AQC has been used in a sample of 39 institutionalized and 40 non-institutionalized Dutch children with mental retardation (Muris & Maas, 2004). The institutionalized sample included 22 boys and 17 girls with a mean age of 10.7 years. Children were from low SES backgrounds, 24.3% had a history of sexual abuse, 43.2% had a history of physical abuse, and 81.1% had been seriously neglected during early childhood. The majority (73.0%) were from divorced families. The non-institutionalized sample included 27 boys and 13 girls with a mean age of 10.3 years, 35% came from divorced families, and 12.5% no longer had contact with their biological family. Non-institutionalized children were matched with institutionalized children based on educational level. There were, however, no available data on their trauma history. Institutionalized children were more likely to be categorized as insecurely attached, using both caregiver and teacher reports. For both institutionalized and non-institutionalized children, caregiver and teacher reports showed higher levels of total difficulties, using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for Children categorized as insecurely attached. Examination of SDQ subscales showed that the relationship was strongest for emotional problems and peer problems, lending further support for the validity of the AQC. In addition, for caregiver reports of non-institutionalized children and teacher reports of institutionalized children, insecurely attached children showed significantly less prosocial behavior. Sensitivity and Specificity were assessed compared to clinical cutoffs on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. For caregiver reports, Sensitivity=80%, Specificity=64.3%. For teacher report, Sensitivity=78.3%, Specificity=69%. When teacher and caregiver reports were combined, Sensitivity=81.3%, Specificity=73.8%.
  3. Finzi et al. (1996) have conducted a number of studies using their 15-item version adapted from the Hazan & Shaver (1987) original AQ for adults. Their studies are summarized in this database under the review for the Attachment Style Classification Questionnaire.
Criterion Validity: 
Validity TypeNot knownNot foundNonclinical SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Sensitive to Change
Intervention Effects
Longitudinal/Maturation Effects
Sensitive to Theoretically Distinct GroupsYes
Factorial Validity
Overall Psychometric Limitations: 
  1. THIS IS NOT A CON: The studies that have paired the AQC with other measures assessing attachment, psychopathology, and at-risk behaviors seem to show that the AQC is tapping into meaningful categories.
  2. Test-retest reliability has not been examined.


Translation Quality: 
Language:TranslatedBack TranslatedReliableGood PsychometricsSimilar Factor StructureNorms AvailableMeasure Developed for this Group
1. DutchYesYes

Population Information

Population Used for Measure Development: 

The measure was first tested with a group of 91 twelve-year-old children (45 boys and 46 girls) recruited from a secondary school in the Netherlands (Muris, Mayer, & Meesters, 2000). No other demographic information was provided in the article. Validity was later examined with a non-clinical sample of 87 boys and 68 girls, aged 12-14 (M=12.8, SD=.5) recruited from a secondary school (Muris et al., 2001). No other demographic information was provided in the article.

Use with Diverse Populations: 
Population Type: Measure Used with Members of this GroupMembers of this Group Studied in Peer-Reviewed JournalsReliableGood PsychometricsNorms AvailableMeasure Developed for this Group
1. Below average intellectual abilitiesYesYesUnkUnkUnkNo

Pros & Cons/References

  1. Studies that have paired the AQC with other measures assessing attachment, psychopathology, and at-risk behaviors seem to show that the AQC is tapping into meaningful categories.
  2. Attachment and relationships are important domains for the field of child trauma. The AQC is a quick, easy, and economical measure that assesses attachment styles in children.
  3. It is impressive that a 1-item measure can yield a score that apparently relates to many important domains.
  4. The measure is free and easily available.
  5. There is a parent and educator version that teachers and parents can complete.
  1. Test-retest reliability has not been examined but is important because attachment styles are said to be stable.
  2. Much of the research has been conducted with predominantly Caucasian children in the Netherlands. More research is needed with more diverse populations.


  1. The AQC taps attachment with regard to peer but not parent-child relationships.
  2. The measure is appropriate for use with adolescents; however, the wording refers to relationships with “children.” Adolescents may not think of themselves as “children.”

*The AQC uses a single categorical classification rather than providing a more detailed or multidimensional assessment of attachment. The AQC is extremely economical in terms of time and burden to participants, especially given that it appears to yield good information; however, if a clinician/researcher is looking for an indicator of change this most likely would not be a good choice, given that there is limited potential for statistical variance.

Author Comments: 

The author read the review and stated that "it looked fine!" No changes were made.


A PsychInfo literature search (7/05) of “Attachment Questionnaire for Children” or “AQC” anywhere revealed that the measure has been referenced in 2 peer-reviewed journal articles. While conducting the review, we identified 4 more articles that used the measure.

Muris, P., & Maas, A. (2004). Strengths and difficulties as correlates of attachment stylein institutionalized and non-institutionalized children with below-average intellectual abilities. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 34(4), 317-328.

Muris, P., Mayer, B., & Meesters C. (2000). Self-reported attachment style, anxiety, and depression in children. Social Behavior and Personality, 28, 157-162.

Muris, P., & Meesters C. (2002). Attachment, behavioral inhibition, and anxiety disorders symptoms in normal adolescents. Journal of Psychopathology Behavioral Assessment, 24, 97-106.

Muris, P. Meesters, C., Merckelbach, H., & Hülsenbeck, P. (2000). Worry is related to perceived parental rearing and attachment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38, 487-497.

Muris, P., Meesters, C., & van den Berg, S. (2003). Internalizing and externalizing problems as correlates of self-reported attachment style and perceived parental rearing in normal adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 12, 171-183.


Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(3), 511-524.

Finzi, R., Har-Even, D., Weizman, A., Tyano, S., & Shnit, D. (1996). The adaptation of the attachment styles questionnaire for latency-aged children. Psychologia: Israel Journal of Psychology, 5(2), 167-177.

Sharpe, T. M., Killen, J. D., Bryson, S.W., Shisslak, C. M., Estes, L. S., Gray, N., Crago, M., & Taylor, C. B. (1998). Attachment style and weight concerns in preadolescent and adolescent girls. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 23, 39-44.

Developer of Review: 
Deborah Augenbraun, Ph.D.
Editor of Review: 
Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D.
Last Updated: 
Monday, March 17, 2014