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classical and contextual determinants of attachment

“Classical” and Contextual Determinants of Attachment

Belsky, J., Rosenberger, K., & Crnic, K. (1995). The origins of attachment security: “Classical” and contextual determinants. In S. Goldberg, R. Muir, & J. Kerr (Eds.), Attachment theory: Social, developmental, and clinical perspectives (pp. 153-83). Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.

  • Controversy about “classicial” theories of personality development.
    • Bowlby and Ainsworth: emphasizes role of caregiving in development of security.
    • Temperament theorists: parents are “blamed” for difficulties inherent in the child.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson

reasons for integration of attachment and ecological perspectives
Reasons for Integration of Attachment and Ecological Perspectives
  • Ecological theory seeks to understand contextual influences on the caregiver-child relationship.
    • This turns the independent variable from attachment research into a dependent variable.
    • “It must be emphasized that this ecological or contextual view of classical atatchment theory and research in no way violates the premises of the theory or research traditions it has spawned; rather, it is our view that it enriches it while preserving its strengths” (p. 154).
  • Attachment theory and ecological theory both emphasize “the importance of the lifespan and the developmental makeup of the parent providing care to the child” (p. 154).

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson

classical determinants of attachment security
“Classical” Determinants of Attachment Security
  • Infant Temperament
    • Some theorists suggest that temperament may shape the “kind” of secure or insecure attachment that develops.
    • Infant temperament alone does not seem to predict secure versus insecure attachment.
      • This is supported by “Crockenberg’s (1981) findings that highly irritable infants are more likely to develop insecure attachment relationships prinicpally when their mothers experience low levels of social support (p. 156; emphasis added).
      • Other studies, including reported results from Belsky’s lab, seem to refute the hypothesis that temparament is a major determinant of attachment security.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson

classical determinants of attachment security cont
“Classical” Determinants of Attachment Security (cont.)
  • Role of Parent/Caregiver
    • Quality of maternal care: although there is still some controversy about the lasting effect of attachment at a particular time (cf., Thompson, 1999), the evidence does suggest that quality of caregiving influences type of attachment.
    • Quality of nonmaternal care: experience of caregiving from others seems to influence present attachment style.

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson

classical determinants of attachment security cont6
“Classical” Determinants of Attachment Security (cont.)
  • Conclusion
    • “Even though infant temperamental characteristics may contribute to the quality of interaction between caregiver and child, the evidence that such attributes are the primary determinants of attachment security is weak” (pp. 162-163).
    • Individual differences in attachment security seem to be “related to the nature of the care that an infant or toddler experiences with a particular caregiver. What makes the evidence particularly convincing is that it is both correlational and experimental in nature; it is both longitudinal as well as cross-sectional; it involves samples of so-called normal mother-child dyads as well as more clinical samples; and it applies to fathers and day-care providers as well as to mothers"”(p. 162; emphasis added).

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson

psychological and social contextual determinants of attachment security
Psychological and Social-Contextual Determinants of Attachment Security
  • Parental Psychological Resources/Personality
    • Psychological health of parents seems to influence attachment in children.
    • Chronicity and intensity: parental depression over a long-period of time and parental anxiety seem to influence attachment.
    • The following personality subscales used to measures caregivers seem to predict attachment in children: nurturance, understanding, autonomy, inquisitiveness, dependence.
  • Contextual Sources of Stress and Support
    • Marital Relationship
    • Nonspousal social support

Dr. Ronald J. Werner-Wilson