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Attachment relationships and psychological distress in young adults: The mediating role of self-esteemThe relationship between attachment security and psychological distress (such as depressive and anxiety symptoms) is well established. However, the role of attachment security beyond primary attachment, referred to as secondary attachment, and the mechanism underlying this relationship is under-explored among young adults. This study sought to investigate the effects of primary attachment and secondary attachment on psychological distress with self-esteem as a mediator in young adults. Four hundred and fifty two UK participants aged 18–25 (55.76% females; Mean age = 20.72; SD = 2.29) completed measures of attachment, self-esteem and psychological distress. Using two mediation models, we tested the effects of primary attachment and secondary attachment separately on psychological distress mediated by self-esteem, while controlling for the other type of attachment (i.e. primary or secondary). The findings supported the mediation effects of both primary attachment and secondary attachment through self-esteem on psychological distress. This study provides the first empirical evidence for the individual role of primary and secondary attachment relationships through self-esteem, which has important implications for preventive and intervention strategies to lessen psychological distress among young adults.