ainsworth - ”I?“ swiw 71¢“:ng Infant—Mother...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–6. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
Image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
Image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 6
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: ”I?“ .. :- swiw 71¢“:ng ., Infant—Mother Attachment AINSWQKTH MARY D. SALTER AINSWORTH University of Virginia Bowlby’s (1969) ethological—evolutionary attach- ment theory implies that it is an essential part of the ground plan of the human species—as well as that of many other species-—for an infantto become attached to a mother figure. This figure need not be the natural mother but can be anyone who plays the role of principal caregiver. This ground plan is fulfilled, except under extraordinary circumstances when the baby experiences too little interaction with any one caregiver to support the formation of an attachment. The literature on maternal deprivation describes some of these cir- cumstances, but it cannot be reviewed here, except to note that research has not yet specified an acceptable minimum amount of interaction re- quired for attachment formation. However, .there have been substantial recent advances in the areas of individual differences in the way attachment behavior becomes organized, differential experiences associated with the various attachment patterns, and the value of such pat- terns in forecasting subsequent development. These advances have been much aided by a stan- dardized laboratory situation that was devised to supplement a naturalistic, longitudinal investiga- tion of the development of infant—mother attach- ment in the first year of life. This strange situa- tion, as we entitled it, has provedto be an excel- lent basis for the assessment of such attachment in l-year-olds (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, 81 Wall, 1978). The assessment procedure consists of classifica- tion according to the pattern of behavior shown in the strange situation, particularly in the episodes of reunion after separation. Eight patterns were identified, but I shall deal here» only with the three main groups into which they fell—Groups A, B, and C. To summarize, Group B babies use their mothers as a secure base from which to explore in the preseparation episodes; their attachment be- havior is greatly intensified by the separation epi- sodes so that exploration diminishes and distress is likely; and in the reunion episodes they seek contact with, proximity to, or at least interaction 932 ' OCTOBER 1979 - AMERICAN Psvcnomorsr Cop t 1979 by the American Psychological Amciatiou, Inc. 000 —066X/79/3410—0932$00.75 with their mothers. Group C babies tend to show some signs of anxiety even in the preseparation epi- sodes; they are intensely distressed by separation; and in the reunion episodes they are ambivalent with the mother, seeking close contact with her and yet resisting contact or interaction. Group A babies, in sharp contrast, rarely cry in the separa- tion episodes and, in the reunion episodes, avoid the mother, either mingling proximity-seeking and avoidant behaviors or ignoring her altogether. COMPARISON OF STRANGE-SITUATION BEHAVIOR AND BEHAVIOR ELSEWHERE Groups A, B, and C in our longitudinal sample were compared in regard to their behavior at home during the first year. Stayton and Ainsworth (1973) had identified, a security—anxiety dimension, in a factor analysis of fourth-quarter infant be- havior. Group B infants were identified as ’se- curely attached because they significantly more often displayed behaviors characteristic of the secure pole of this dimension, whereas both of the other groups were identified as anxious because their behaviors were characteristic of the anxious pole. A second dimension was clearly related to close bodily contact, and this was important in distinguishing Group A babies from those in the other two groups, in that Group A babies behaved less positively to being held and yet more nega- tively to being put down. The groups were also distinguished by two behaviors not included in the factor analysis—cooperativeness and anger. Group B babies were more cooperative and less aneg than either A or C babies; Group A babies were even more angry than those in Group C. Clearly, something 'Went awry in the physical-contact in~. teraction Group A babies had with their mothers, and as I explain below, I believe it is this that makes them especially prone to anger. Requests for reprints should be sent to Mary D. Salter Ainsworth, Department of Psychology, University of Vir- ginia, Gilmer Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901. Vol. 34, No. 10, 932—937 ."517‘7’: "gt ‘. Ainsworth et al. (1978) reviewed findings of other investigators who had compared A—B—C groups of l-year-olds in terms of their behavior elsewhere. Their findings regarding socioemotional behavior support the summary just cited, and in addition three investigations using cognitive mea- sures found an advantage in favor of the securely attached. COMPARISON OF INFANT STRANGE-SITUATION BEHAVIOR WITH MATERNAL HOME BEHAVIOR Mothers of the securely attached (Group B) babies were, throughout the first year, more sensitively responsive to infant signals than were the mothers of the two anxiously attached groups, in terms of a variety of measures spanning all of the most com- mon contexts for mother—infant interaction (Ains- worth et al., 1978). Such responsiveness, I sug- gest, enables an infant to form expectations, primi- tive at first, that moderate his or her responses to events, both internal and environmental. Grad- ually, such an infant constructs an inner repre- sentation—or “working model” (Bowlby, 1969)— of his or her mother as generally'accessible and responsive to him or her. Therein lies his or her security. In contrast, babies whose mothers have disregarded their signals, or have responded to them belatedly or in a grossly inappropriate fash- ion, have no basis for believing the mother to be accessible and responsive; consequently they are anxious, not knowing what to expect of her. In regard to interaction in close bodily con- tact, the most striking finding is that the mothers of avoidant (Group A) babies all evinced a deep- seated aversion to it, whereas none of the other mothers did. In addition they were more reject- ing, more often angry, and yet more restricted in thegexpression of affect than were Group B or C mothers. - Main (e.g., in press) and Ainsworth et al. (1978) have presented a theoretical account of the dynamics of interaction of avoidant babies and their rejecting mothers. This emphasizes the acute approach~avoidance conflict experienced by these infants when their attachment behavior is activated at high intensity—a conflict stemming from painful rebuff consequent upon seeking close bodily contact. Avoidance is viewed as a defen- sive maneuver, lessening the anxiety and anger experienced in the conflict situation and enabling the baby nevertheless to remain within a tolerable range of proximity to the mother. Findings and interpretations such as these raise the issue of direction of effects. To what extent is the pattern of attachment of a baby attributable to the mother’s behavior throughout the first year, and to what extent is it attributable to built-in differences in potential and temperament? I have considered this problem elsewhere (Ainsworth, 1979) and have concluded that in our sample of normal babies there is a strong case to be made for differences in attachment quality being at- tributable to maternal behavior. Two studies, however (Connell, 1976; Waters, Vaughn, & Ege- land, in press), have suggested that Group C babies may as newborns be constitutionally “difficult.” Particularly if the mother’s personality or life situation makes it hard for her to be sensitively responsive to infant, cues, such a baby'seems in- deed likely to form an attachment relationship of anxious quality. Contexts of M other—In fant Interaction Of the various contexts in which mother-infant interaction commonly takes place, the face-to-face situation has been the focus of most recent re- search. By many (e.g., Walters & Parke, 1965), interaction mediated by distance receptors and behaviors has been judged especially important in the establishment of human relationships. Mi- croanalytic studies, based on frame-by-frame anal- ysis of film records, show clearly that maternal sensitivity to infant behavioral cues is essential for successful pacing of face-to-face interaction (e.g., Brazelton, Koslowski, & Main, 1974; Stern, 1974). Telling evidence of the role of vision, both in the infant’s development of attachment to the mother and in the mother’s responsiveness to the infant, comes from Fraiberg’s (1977) longi- tudinal study of blind infants. So persuasive have been the studies of inter- action involving distance receptors that interaction involving close bodily contact has been largely ignored. The evolutionary perspective of attach- ment theory attributes focal importance to bodily contact. Other primate species rely on the main~ tenance of close mother—infant contact as crucial for infant survival. Societies of hunter-gatherers, living much as the earliest humans did, are con- spicuous for very much more mother—infant con- tact than are western societies (e;g., Konner, 1976). Blurton Jones (1972) presented evidence sug- gesting that humans evolved as a species in which infants are carried by the mother and are fed at frequent intervals, rather than as a species in AMERICAS: PsycHOLocIsr ' OCTOBER 1979 - 933 .1; ”Mamas”, . .. . which infants are left for long periods, are cached in a safe place, and are fed but infrequently. Bowlby (1969) pointed out that when attachment behavior is intensely activated it is close bodily contact that is specifically required. Indeed, Bell and Ainsworth (1972) found that even with the white, middle-class mothers of their sample, the most frequent and the most effective response 7 to an infant’s crying throughout the first year was to pick up the baby. A recent analysis of our longitudinal findings (Blehar, Ainsworth, 81 Main, Note 1) suggests that mother—infant interaction relevant to close bodily contact is at least as im- portant a context of interaction as face-to-face is, perhaps especially in the first few months of life. Within the limits represented by our sample, how- ever, we found that it was how the mother holds her baby rather than how much she holds him or her that affects the way in which attachment develops. In recent years the feeding situation has been neglected as a context for mother—infant inter- action, except insofar as it is viewed as a setting for purely social, face-to-face interaction. Earlier, mother’s gratification or frustration of infant in- terest to both psychoanalytically oriented and so- cial-learning research, on the assumption that a mother’s gratification or frustration of infant in- stinctual drives, or her role as a secondary rein- forcer, determined the nature of the baby’s tie to her. Such research yielded no evidence that meth- ods of feeding significantly affected the course of infant development, although these negative find- ings seem almost certainly to reflect methodologi- cal deficiencies (Caldwell, 1964). In contrast, we have found that sensitive maternal responsiveness to infant signals relevant to feeding is closely re- lated to the security or anxiety of attachment that eventually develops (Ainsworth & Bell, 1969). Indeed, this analysis seemed to redefine the mean- ing of “demand” feeding—letting infant behavioral cues determine not only when feeding is begun but also when it is terminated, how the pacing of feeding proceeds, and how new foods are intro- duced. ‘ Our findings do not permit us to attribute over- riding importance to any one context of mother- infant interaction. Whether the context is feeding, close bodily contact, face-to-face interaction, or indeed the situation defined by the infant’s crying, mother—infant interaction provides the baby with opportunity to build up expectations of the mother and, eventually, a working model of her as more 934 - OCTOBER 1979 ' AMERICAN Psvcnomcrs-r 1‘ or less ,accessihleta‘nd responsive. Indeed, .our findings suggest that a-‘mother who is sensitively responsive to signals in one context tends also to be. responsive to signals in other contexts. Practical Implications for Intervention What I have so far summarized about research findings pertaining both to contexts of interaction and to qualitative differences in infant—mother at- tachment has implications for parenting education, for intervention by prefessionals to help a mother to achieve better interaction with her baby, and for the practices of substitute caregivers. I can- not go into detail here—and indeed such 'detail would need to be based on much fuller reports of the relevant research than I am able to include here. Among the intervention programs with which I am familiar, some parent-child develop- ment centers have reported success in the appli- cation of our research findings in improving and sustaining the rate of development of very young children through improving the quality of mother- infant interaction (e.g., Andrews, Blumenthal, Bache, & Wiener, Note 2). Furthermore, the ex- pert clinical interventions of Fraiberg and her as- sociates with families at risk have focused on in- creasing maternal responsiveness to infant. be- havioral cues (e.g., Shapiro, Fraiberg, & Adelson, 1976). It may be that such intervention, al- though obviously expensive, provides the most effective mode of helping dyads in which the dif— ficulty stems from deep-seated difficulties in the mother’s personality, such as the aversion to bodily contact characteristic of our Group A mothers. Using the Mother as a Secure Base From Which to Explore Attachment theory conceives of the behavioral system serving attachment as only one of several important systems, each with its own activators, terminators, predictable outcomes, and functions. During the prolonged period of human infancy, when the protective function of attachment is especially important, its interplay with exploratory behavior is noteworthy. The function of explora- tion is learning about the environment—which is particularly important in a species possessing. much potential for adaptation to a wide range of en- vironments. Attachment and exploration support each other. When attachment behavior is in- tensely activated, a baby tends to seek proximity/. contact rather than eprOring; when attachment. behavior is at low intensity a baby is free to re- spond to the pull of novelty. The presence of an attachment figure, particularly one who is believed to be accessible and responsive, leaves the baby open to stimulation that may activate exploration. Nevertheless, it is often believed that somehow attachment may interfere with the development of independence. Our studies provide no support for such a belief. For example, Blehar et al. (Note 1) found that babies who respond posi- tively to close bodily contact with their mothers also tend to respond positively to being put down again and to move off into independent explora- tory play. Fostering the growth of secure attach- ment facilitates rather than hampers the growth of healthy self-reliance (Bowlby, 1973). Response to Separation From Attachment Figures Schaffer (1971) suggested that the crucial cri- terion for whether a baby has become attached to a specific figure is that he or she does not con- sider this figure interchangeable with any other figure. 'Thus, for an infant to protest the mother’s departure or continued absence is a dependable criterion for attachment (Schaffer & Callender, 1959). This does not imply that protest is an invariable response to separation from an attach- ment figure under all circumstances; the context of the separation influences the likelihood and in- tensity of protest. Thus there is ample evidence, which cannot be cited here, that protest is unlikely to occur, at least initially, in the case of voluntary separations, when the infant willingly leaves the mother in order to explore elsewhere. Protest is less likely to occur if the baby is left with another attachment figure than if he or she is left with an unfamiliar person or alone. Being left in an unfamiliar environment is more distressing than comparable separations in the familiar environ- ‘ment of the home—in which many infants are able to build up expectations that reassure them of mother’s accessibility and responsiveness even though she may be absent. Changes attributable to developmental processes affect separation pro- test in complex ways. Further research will un- doubtedly be able to account for these shifts in terms of progressive cognitive achievements. 'Major separations of days, months, or even years must be distinguished from the very brief . separations, lasting only minutes, that have been studied most intensively both in' the laboratory and at home. Securely attached infants may be able to tolerate very brief separations with equa- nimity, yet they are likely to be distressed in major separations, especially when cared for by unfamiliar persons in unfamiliar environments. Even so, Robertson and Robertson (1971) showed that sensitive substitute parentng can do much to mute separation distress and avert the more serious consequences of major separations. Despite a steady increase in Our understanding of the complexities of response to and efiects of separation from attachment figures in infancy and early childhood, it is difficult to suggest clear-cut guidelines for parents and others responsible for infant and child care. So much depends on the circumstances under which separation takes place, on the degree to which the separation environment can substitute satisfactorily for home and parents, on the child’s stage of development and previous experience, and on the nature of his or her rela- tionship with attachment figures: No wonder that the issue of the separations implicit in day care is controversial. Further research is clearly needed. Meanwhile, it would seem wise for par- ents—if they have a choice—to move cautiously rather than plunging into substitute-care arrange- ments with a blithe assumption that all is bound to go well. Other Attachment Figures Many have interpreted Bowlby’s attachment theory as claiming that an infant can become attached to only one person—the mother. This is a mistaken interpretation. There are, however, three implications of attachment theory relevant to the-issue of “multiple” attachments. First, as reported by Ainsworth (1967) and Schaffer and Emerson (1964), infants are highly selective in their choices of attachment figures from ar'nong the various persons familiar to them. No infant has been observed to have many attachment fig- ures. Second, not all social relationships may be identified as attachments. Harlow (1971) dis- tinguished between the infant—mother and peer- peer affectional systems, although under certain circumstances peers may become attachment fig- ures in the absence of anyone more appropriate (see, e.g., Freud 81 Dann, 1951; Harlow, 1963). Third, the fact that a baby may have several at- tachment figures does not imply that they are all equally important. Bowlby (1969) suggested that AMERICAN Psvcnomorsr - OCTOBER 1979 - 935 they are not—that there is a principal attachment figure, usually the principal caregiver, and one or more secondary figures. Thus a hierarchy is im- plied. A baby may both enjoy and derive security ‘ from all of his or her attachment figures but, under ..,._4 .n.‘ \_:,.._ .. 1.:‘wshi ,,.... . “a, , H p, differences betv'veen. the. two groups of anxiously {attached infants, 'with the avoidant ones (Group ' A) continuing 'to be more aggressive, noncompli- ant, and avoidant, and the ambivalent ones (Group C) emerging as more easily frustrated, less per- L‘< n Hawaii certain circumstances (e.g., illness, fatigue, stress), sistent, and generally less competent. provides a core of continuity in development de- spite changes that come with developmental ac- quisitions, both cognitive and socioemotional. This is not to insist that the organization of attachment is fixed in the firs...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern