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Title: Attachment during the first year of life : validity and longitudinal associations to 14 months, of attachment classification at 7 months
Author: Abbott, Kate
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 429X
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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Attachment status from 12 months onwards has been linked to later psychopathology and cognitive abilities. Although there are many ways of measuring attachment from infancy onwards, none aim to assess attachment security before the age of 12 months. This is despite evidence to suggest that infants as young as 3 months might be in an 'attachment in the making' phase and are already beginning to develop some of the necessary cognitive and emotion regulatory skills. There is good reason to suppose that patterns of attachment with parents are acquired over the first weeks or months of life in interaction with caregivers, and that thereafter they show some degree of stability. Establishing whether or not infant attachment security is established before 12 months is potentially important, both to our understanding of early developmental processes, and to refining approaches to early intervention. Methods. As part of a wider longitudinal study, a community-based sample of first-time mothers, stratified by risk, took part in the Still-Face and Strange Situation Paradigms with their infants at 7 and 14 months. A total of 224 mother-infant dyads had complete data at each age. Starting with a consideration of emotion regulatory strategies and building on the methodology of the Strange Situation (Ainsworth, Blehar & Waters, 1978), a hierarchical algorithm was devised to assign infants to attachment categories at 7 months. This used established scales of infant behaviours (Murray, Fiori-Cowley, Hooper, & Cooper, 1996) during the still-face and reunion episodes of the Still-Face. Results. Four-way classification from the Still-Face yielded a distribution that was very similar to the distribution of attachment derived independently from the Strange Situation. Validity of the method was supported by significant associations at age 7 months, between attachment security and maternal sensitivity, and disorganised attachment and partner violence, and by a lack of association between attachment status and infant temperament. Stability of attachment classification from 7 to 14 months was similar to that of published findings for stability over the second year of life, and prediction from attachment in the Still-Face to attachment in the Strange Situation was not accounted for by maternal sensitivity at 7 months. Conclusions. This study showed evidence to suggest that it is possible to measure attachment status in the Still-Face paradigm at 7 months, indicating that infants differ systematically in the ways they make use of their mothers to solve distress from earlier than previously thought. Further studies are needed to examine the timeline for the establishment of attachment strategies over the first year of life. It is suggested that the Still-Face might be a useful tool for this and for possible clinical interventions as it is robust and can be used from the age of two months.
Supervisor: Sharp, H. ; Hill, J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral