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Vanessa Bueno. Daniella Dahmen Wagner. Holli A. Tonyan Carollee Howes. Security of Attachment in Relation to Maternal Sensitivity Over Time. Department of Psychology. Introduction. Methodology. Results. Conclusions. Background. Tables. Discussion. Variables & Measures.

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Vanessa Bueno

Daniella Dahmen Wagner

Holli A. Tonyan Carollee Howes

Security of Attachment in Relation to Maternal Sensitivity Over Time

Department of Psychology

Introduction

Methodology

Results

Conclusions

Background

Tables

Discussion

Variables & Measures

  • Researchers of early attachment have a great interest in describing variations in the patterns of a child’s early social relationships and how these early relationships influence individual relationships in the child’s developmental outcome (Waters, Vaughn, Posada & Kondo-Ikmura, 1995).

  • Furthermore these early studies have found a clear link between maternal sensitivity and a child’s secure attachment (Waters, Vaughn, Posada & Kondo-Ikmura, 1995).

  • One study examined mother child dyads in the strange situation and concluded that if mothers expressed sensitivity to a child’s distress in their early months, there is a higher likelihood the child will form a secure attachment (McElwain & Booth-LaForce, 2006).

  • A previous study with the same sample used in this study found that more emotionally sensitive mothers were associated with more secure adult-child attachments (Howes, 2009).

  • However, studies examining the stability of attachment and maternal sensitivity over time could not be found, particularly among ethnic minority groups.

  • A Q-set is a set of individual descriptive statements constructed on the basis of theoretical descriptions by developmental researchers and experts.

  • Each item is “sorted” into piles, from not at all characteristic to very characteristic

  • AQS Attachment Q-Set (Waters)

  • 90 individual descriptive statements of the behavior of infants and young

  • children observed during periods of interaction with primary caregiver.

    • Security of Attachment: calculated as a correlation between “ideal” and “obtained,” (range: -1 [low] to + 1 [high]).

  • MBQ Maternal behavior Q-set (Pederson, Moran)

  • Describes a wide range of maternal behavior such as interactive style,

  • sensitivity to her infant's state, feeding interactions, and the extent to which

  • the home reflects the infant's needs.

    • Maternal sensitivity: calculated as a correlation between “ideal” and “obtained,” (range: -1 [low] to + 1 [high]).

  • This result supports our hypothesis that mothers who were consistent in their sensitivity would be more likely to have children who stayed secure and that mothers whose sensitivity changed would be more likely to have children whose security changed.

  • By examining Table 2 a trend can be noted that suggests a mother who stays sensitive is more likely to have a child who remains secure (n=14) as oppose to a mother who stays insensitive (n=0).

  • While not statistically significant, another trend noted is that mothers who become sensitive, may have been more likely to have their child become secure.

  • Future research should extend these findings by looking at longer periods of time to see if security stabilizes over time for mothers who become more sensitive.

  • Based on these findings it is reasonable to conclude that mothers should be aware of and attempt to increase their sensitivity because changes do effect their child’s security and a mother who stays sensitive will have a higher likelihood of a child maintaining a secure attachment.

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Examples of AQS and MBQ

  • Examples of AQS items

  • 36. Child clearly shows a pattern of using mother as a base from which to explore. Moves out to play; Returns or plays near her; moves out to play again, etc. Low: Always away unless retrieved, or always stays near.

  • 53. Child puts his arms around mother or puts his hand on her shoulder when she picks him up .Low: Accepts being picked up but doesn’t especially help or hold on.

  • Examples of MBQ Items:

  • 12. Interprets cues correctly as evidenced by baby’s response.

  • 9. Responds consistently to baby’s signals.

  • Low: Responses are unpredictable or arbitrary.

  • Attachment: The emotional bond that children form with their caregivers at about 7 to 9 months ( Lightfoot. C, Cole. M, Cole. R S, 2009).

  • Secure Attachment: Child plays comfortably and reacts positively to strangers when mother is present. The child is upset when the mother leaves and is unlikely to be consoled by a stranger. The child calms down when the mother reappears (Lightfoot. C, Cole. M, Cole. R S, 2009).

Analysis

Limitations

  • Individuals were grouped, based on the stability of attachment/sensitivity over time. We identified four patterns of change for attachment and for sensitivity (see Table 2).

  • We collapsed across categories to reduce the number of cells with small numbers and created three categories for security (stayed secure, stayed insecure, changed in security) and two categories for sensitivity (stable in sensitivity, changing in sensitivity).

  • A Chi-Squared test for independence between security and sensitivity suggested that stability in security was related to stability in sensitivity over time. Supporting our initial hypothesis,

  • 2 (2) = 7.484, p = .024. See Figure 1.

Purpose

  • A small sample limits our statistical power and non-random sampling limits generalizability.

  • While there was an established cut point between secure and insecure attachment (.33), there is no such cut point sensitivity and groups were based on natural groupings within the data. More research is needed to determine appropriate ways to classify mothers according to sensitivity.

  • More research is needed to establish the external validity of the MBQS for measuring maternal sensitivity over time.

  • The purpose of this to study was to examine whether changes in maternal sensitivity were related to changes in a child’s security of attachment over time.

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Hypotheses

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References

  • We predicted that changes in maternal sensitivity would not be independent of changes in security of attachment.

  • Specifically we believed that a mother that remained stable in sensitivity would have a higher likelihood of maintaining a secure attachment with her child.

  • Howes, C., Vu A, J., & Hamilton, C. (2011). Mother-child attachment representation and relationships over time in Mexican-heritage families. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25(3).

  • Waters, E., Vaughn, B. E., Posada, G., & Ikemura, K. K. (1995). Caregiving , cultural, and cognitive perspectives on secure base behavior and working models: New growing points of attachment theory and research Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development (Vol 60).

  • Greenburg, M. T., & Cicchetti, D. (1993). Attachment in the preschool years. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Lightfoot, C., Cole, M., & Cole, R. S. (2009). The development of children (6th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

  • McElwain, N. L., & Booth-La Force, C. (2006). Maternal sensitivity to infant distress and nondistress as predictors of infant-mother attachment security. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(2), 247-255.

Figure 1

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Procedures

  • In the original study the mother-child dyads were visited in their homes for an unstructured observation lasting 2 to 3 hours (moms were told we wanted to observe a typical day in their child’s life).

  • Afterward, researchers completed the AQS and MBQ based on the entire visit.

  • Although the larger study observed families at 8, 14, 24, and 36 months, our analyses examined only data from the 14- and 24-month observations, just after attachment relationships have become organized and before they have moved into the “goal-corrected partnership” phase (Greenburg & Cicchetti, 1993).

  • Children were classified as secure or insecure based on a .33 cutoff established in the literature (Waters, Vaughn, Posada & Kondo-Ikmura, 1995).

  • Mothers were classified as sensitive or insensitive based on natural groupings observed in the data (see Table 1).

Participants

13

  • 50 Mexican heritage mother-child dyads

  • Part of the Local Early Head Start Research project Site for National Evaluation of Early Head Start.

  • 14– month and 24-month old infants were observed

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