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Attachment Lab

Research Center
Research Area


Dott.ssa Alessandra Frigerio
PhD, senior researcher. Research Unit coordinator
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Dott.ssa Sarah Nazzari
Post doc researcher
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Dott.ssa Nicole Viganò
Research fellow


+39 031 877595



The research activity at the Attachment Lab is aimed at investigating the role played by early relationship with the caregiver in child development, according to attachment theory. The focus of the projects concerns the investigation of the complex interplay between the quality of parental care and child characteristics, through the use of standardized methods and a multidisciplinary approach that includes the study of psychological and biological factors. Specifically, the main aims of our studies concern: a) the identification and understanding of the factors underlying some at-risk conditions for parenting (e.g. depression, maltreatment) that can exert a negative impact on child socio-emotional development and his/her stress regulation abilities, and b) the evaluation of the validity of attachment-based intervention in promoting parental sensitive behaviors and discipline strategies in at risk populations.

Some members of the lab are certified coders for the following attachment-based instruments and interventions:

  • Strange Situation (A. Sroufe and E. Carlson, University of Minnesota)
  • MacArthur Preschool Attachment Classification System (R. Marvin, University of Virginia)  
  • Hostile-Helpless state of mind on the Adult Attachment Interview (K. Lyons-Ruth, Harvard Medical School)
  • Emotional Availability Scales (Z. Biringen, Colorado State University)
  • Videofeedback Intervention to promote Positive Parenting and Sensitive Discipline (VIPP-SD) (F. Juffer, University of Leiden)

We are now conducting a longitudinal study, namely EDI study (Effects of Depression on Infants), aimed at investigating the effects of maternal mood in pregnancy on child development from birth to preschool age, in collaboration with Valduce Hospital in Como, Mandic Hospital in Merate and Fatebenefratelli Hospital in  Erba and public health services of Como and Lecco. Specifically, the EDI study is focused on the investigation of the complex interaction between antenatal (biological and psychological) factors associated with maternal depression and postnatal factors (mainly, the quality of maternal care) in shaping different developmental trajectories (in particular, emotion regulation abilities and temperament).    

Selected Publications

  • Nazzari S, Molteni M, Valtorta F, Comai S, Frigerio A. Prenatal IL-6 levels and activation of the tryptophan to kynurenine pathway are associated with depressive but not anxiety symptoms across the perinatal and the post-partum period in a low-risk sample. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 89: 175-183, 2020
  • Nazzari S, Fearon P, Rice F, Ciceri F, Molteni M, Frigerio A. The biological underpinnings of perinatal depressive symptoms: A multi-systems approach. Journal of Affective Disorders, 274: 1004-10012, 2020
  • Nazzari S, Fearon P, Rice F, Ciceri F, Molteni M, Frigerio A. Neuroendocrine and immune markers of maternal stress during pregnancy and infant cognitive development. Dev Psychobiol. 2020 Mar 31. doi: 10.1002/dev.21967. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32232990
  • Nazzari, S., & Frigerio, A. The programming role of maternal antenatal inflammation on infants' early neurodevelopment: A review of human studies: Special Section on "Translational and Neuroscience Studies in Affective Disorders" Section Editor, Maria Nobile MD, PhD. Journal of affective disorders, 263, 739–746, 2020
  • Frigerio, A., Porreca, A., Simonelli, A., & Nazzari, S. Emotional Availability in Samples of Mothers at High Risk for Depression and With Substance Use Disorder. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 577, 2019
  • Nazzari, S., Fearon, P., Rice, F., Dottori, N., Ciceri, F., Molteni, M., & Frigerio, A. Beyond the HPA-axis: Exploring maternal prenatal influences on birth outcomes and stress reactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 101, 253–262, 2019
  • Casonato M, Nazzari S, Frigerio A. Feasibility and efficacy of an attachment-based intervention in a maltreatment sample in residential care: A pilot study. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 22: 561-571, 2017
  • Frigerio A, Costantino E, Ceppi E, Barone L. The Hostile-Helpless State of Mind Among Women from Low-Risk, Poverty and Maltreatment Samples. Attachment and Human Development, 15:424-42, 2013
  • Frigerio A, Ceppi E, Rusconi M, Giorda R, Raggi ME, Fearon P. “The role played by the interaction between genetics and attachment in the stress response in infancy”. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 50: 1513-1522, 2009
  • Frigerio A, Ceppi E, Colasanto M, Molteni M. “Attaccamento e problemi emotivo-comportamentali in un campione infantile di bambini maltrattati” Saggi Child Development and Disabilities 3: 117-133, 2009
  • Barone L, Frigerio A. "Qualità della disorganizzazione nelle rappresentazioni mentali d'attaccamento delle madri: uno studio pilota nell'ambito del maltrattamento". Maltrattamento e Abuso all’Infanzia 11: 39-50, 2009


Dott. Stefano Comai – Division of Neuroscience - San Raffaele Scientific Institute and Vita-Salute University
Prof. Alessandra Simonelli – Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialisation – University of Padova
Dott. Alessio Porreca – Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialisation – University of Padova
Prof Pasco Fearon – Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London


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