Maternal separation anxiety: Its relationship to attachment and employment
Licht, Lisa Margot
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Maternal separation anxiety (MSA) has been defined as a mother's apprehension, guilt, and worry about leaving her baby during routine separations. The present study focused on mother-centered factors associated with MSA among professional women with young children. Participants were 140 mothers of children one month to three years of age, who had been working prior to the birth of their first child. Factors investigated included maternal work status and preference, reasons for working or staying home following childbirth, beliefs about the consequences of maternal employment on children, maternal attachment style and masculine/feminine orientation.;Significant relationships were found between MSA and employment status and preference. Stay-at-home status and preference were both associated with higher general and work-related MSA. Working mothers who preferred to be home had higher work-related MSA than those who preferred to work.;In terms of perceived consequences of maternal employment, employed mothers believed in fewer costs to the child than stay-at-home mothers. Mothers working full-time believed in more benefits than both stay-at-home and part-time employed mothers. General and employment-related MSA were positively associated with perceived costs and negatively associated with perceived benefits of maternal employment.;Among working mothers, greater personal satisfaction from work was associated with lower work-related MSA. Among mothers at home, belief in traditional values was associated with higher general MSA.;Mothers with certain attachment styles were prone to greater MSA. The preoccupied style was associated with higher work-related MSA, whereas the dismissive style was associated with lower work-related MSA. Contrary to expectation, it was not the preoccupied, but the fearful style that put mothers at greatest risk for high general MSA. There was considerable variability in degree of MSA among securely attached mothers, suggesting that for these mothers in particular, factors other than the mother-centered variables explored in this study (e.g. infant behavior, temperament) may be more important in understanding maternal separation concerns.;Contrary to expectation, masculinity/femininity was unrelated to MSA and employment characteristics.