The organization of attachment in young children
Altman, Susannah C.
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Since its introduction in 1958, researchers have sought to examine empirically John Bowlby's attachment theory. Bowlby suggested that early caregiving relationships lay the groundwork for socioemotional development and guide behavior.;For the present study, several hypotheses were generated based upon attachment theory and previously conducted research, and examined with a sample of 32 mothers and their approximately four year old children. First, it was hypothesized that children's responses to a measure designed to assess their internal working models of attachments would be related to a measure assessing their observable attachment behaviors, but not to a measure of their language competence. Second, it was hypothesized that mothers who were rated as more competent and sensitive during a mother-child teaching task would have children who demonstrated more secure internal working models and more secure attachment behaviors than children of mothers who were rated as less competent and sensitive. Third, it was hypothesized that fewer life stresses, mothers' reports of greater social supports, and fewer changes in caregiving would be associated with greater attachment security in children. Finally, it was hypothesized that, although a number of factors including parent, child, and environmental characteristics would be associated with children's attachment security, characteristics of the caregiver would be the best predictor of children's attachment security.;Data from this sample demonstrated that the children's internal working models were related significantly to their observable attachment behaviors, and that these two measures of attachments were related significantly to concurrent assessments of mothers' behaviors. Only disorganization of children's internal working models was related significantly to children's language competence. Additionally, mothers' reports of social support were found to be associated with children's internal working models, with greater support related to greater attachment security. Stressful life events and changes in caregiving, factors previously shown to affect attachments, were not related significantly to measures of attachments for this sample. Finally, mothers' behaviors were found to be the best predictor of children's attachment security.