Object attachment and emotion (Dys)regulation across development and clinical populations

Kiara R. Timpano, Jamie H. Port

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Attachment to possessions has been observed in the archaeological record, and is noted across historical ages, cultures, and developmental stages. It reflects a normative process that may serve a number of functions. We suggest that object attachment may be intricately linked with emotion regulation. The present review details the normative and likely evolved function that object attachment can serve in regulating emotions, as noted in the developmental and consumer science literature. We further address examples of aberrant object attachment and highlight links with emotion dysregulation by reviewing object attachment across four disorders, including Hoarding Disorder, Compulsive Buying, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Autism Spectrum conditions. Conclusions across literatures suggest that object attachment seems to assist with emotion regulation, by either upregulating positive affect or downregulating negative affect. A distinct lack of studies on specific mechanisms is present throughout research on this topic. Our review concludes with a roadmap for future research, which draws on progress in affective science and suggests the Research Domain Criteria as a launching point to inform hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-114
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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