EARLY CARRYING AND ITS EFFECTS ON INFANT-MOTHER ATTACHMENT: THE ROLE OF MATERNAL ATTITUDES (CROSS-CULTURAL CHILD DEVELOPMENT)
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This study focuses on the effects that early carrying has on infant-mother relationships. The sample was composed of 40 dyads drawn from a black and hispanic lower SES population. After giving birth, mothers with neutral attitudes toward carrying were identified. Half of the women were randomly assigned soft baby carriers (experimental group), and the other half were given infant seats (control group). It was hypothesized that the additional close contact experienced through carrying would promote a more sensitive relationship between a mother and her infant than might normally occur in this group of mothers who are subject to multiple stresses in their daily lives. We further hypothesized that this increased sensitivity would result in more securely attached infants at 13 months.;Maternal childrearing attitudes were assessed at birth as an independent variable, and at 13 months as a dependent variable. At 3 1/2 months, mothers were rated on sensitivity (promptly assessing and responding to their infant's needs and cues). The infants were scored on responsivity (degree of attention and looking, smiling and/or vocalizing) to their mothers. At 13 months, infant-mother attachment was evaluated through the Strange Situation Procedure.;Early carrying did have a strong effect, with over twice the number of secure attachments in the experimental group than in the control group (80% vs. 35%). Further, amount of carrier use also correlated positively with secure attachments. Although multiparas were affected by carrying, the effect on primiparas was greater. Carrying mothers were also more sensitive in their interactions with their infants at 3 1/2 months, but sensitivity was not predictive of attachment for either group. In the control group, the infants who were securely attached were more likely to have multiparous mothers.;For both groups, high attitudes at birth on the Reciprocity Factor of the M.A.S. (understanding the communication abilities of young infants) were predictive of maternal sensitivity and infant responsivity at 3 1/2 months. For experimental group mothers, greater sensitivity at 3 1/2 months correlated positively with high scores on the Emotional Complexity Factor of the M.A.S. (understanding the contradictions of children) at 13 months. Carrying affected childrearing attitudes in that mothers who carried more had higher scores on the Emotional Complexity Factor at 13 months. Overall, there were few differences between groups on maternal attitudes, and attitudes remained stable over the course of the year. Early carrying had greater effects on behavior than on maternal attitudes.