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The course of maternal depressive symptoms and maternal sensitivity as predictors of attachment security at 36 months

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2004

SUSAN B. CAMPBELL
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh
CELIA A. BROWNELL
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh
ANNE HUNGERFORD
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh
SUSAN J. SPIEKER
Affiliation:
University of Washington
ROLI MOHAN
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh
JENNIFER S. BLESSING
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh

Abstract

We examined the course of maternal depressive symptoms and children's attachment security at 36 months in a large sample of mother–child pairs from 10 sites across the country participating in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (N = 1077). Maternal depressive symptoms predicted higher rates of insecure attachment. Women who reported intermittent symptoms across the first 36 months had preschoolers who were more likely to be classified as insecure C or D; women with chronic symptoms were more likely to have preschoolers who were classified as insecure D. Symptoms reported only during the first 15 months were not associated with elevated rates of later insecurity. After controlling for potentially confounding demographic variables, maternal sensitivity (observed at 6, 15, 24, and 36 months) did not meaningfully account for links between attachment security and patterns of depressive symptoms. However, the course and timing of maternal depressive symptoms interacted with maternal sensitivity to predict insecurity. Women with late, intermittent, or chronic symptoms who were also low in sensitivity were more likely to have preschoolers who were insecure, in contrast to symptomatic women who were high in sensitivity. These data have implications for understanding the combined impact of maternal depressive symptoms and maternal sensitivity on children's socioemotional development.These data were collected under the auspices of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Susan B. Campbell, Celia A. Brownell, and Susan J. Spieker are investigators in this multisite study. We acknowledge the generous support of the NICHD (Grants HD25420 and HD25447). The study is directed by a Steering Committee and supported by NICHD through a cooperative agreement (U10) that calls for a scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. The authors thank their coinvestigators who worked with them on the design of the larger study, the site coordinators and research assistants who collected the data, and the children and families who continue to participate in this longitudinal study. Our appreciation is also expressed to Dr. Carey Ryan for statistical advice. We also thank the coders who scored the maternal sensitivity and preschool attachment videotapes.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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