Attachment and Hikikomori: a Psychosocial Developmental Model

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Jane Dickie, Hope College

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Hikikomori is the Japanese term that describes the condition of acute social withdrawal, and represents a terrible loss both on a personal and societal level. The purpose of our study was to investigate some of the risk factors that predict hikikomori, and to condense it into a psychosocial developmental model, which may help explain the etiology of this condition. In this poster presentation, we summarize the research on attachment theory, parental rejection and temperamental characteristics. We discuss the transfer of attachment style from parents to peers, and examine existing literature relating attachment and withdrawal behaviors in the West, and make connections with the case studies and clinical observations of hikikomori in Japan.

We compared a clinical sample of Japanese hikikomori (N=24) with an age match contrast group of undergraduate students (N=61) on measures of maternal attachment, dispositional shyness, parental rejection, and peer rejection.

Supporting our predictions, the hikikomori sample scored significantly higher on the Maternal Attachment Scale’s measure of Ambivalence. They also scored higher on parental rejection, dispositional shyness, and peer rejection. Finally, we performed a path analysis to test our psychosocial developmental model. This revealed that while parental rejection did significantly predict ambivalent attachment and peer rejection, it did not directly predict hikikomori. As the model predicted, it is the combination of ambivalent attachment and peer rejection that together significantly predict hikikomori. Trait Shyness showed a trend in impacting ambivalent attachment, but did not predict hikikomori. As one of the first empirical studies on hikikomori, we conclude with the model’s important implications for both prevention and intervention that could pave a way towards recovery.

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