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New insight on intergenerational attachment from a relationship-based analysis

  • Heidi N. Bailey (a1), George M. Tarabulsy (a2), Greg Moran (a3), David R. Pederson (a3) and Sandi Bento (a3)...

Abstract

Research on attachment transmission has focused on variable-centered analyses, where hypotheses are tested by examining linear associations between variables. The purpose of this study was to apply a relationship-centered approach to data analysis, where adult states of mind, maternal sensitivity, and infant attachment were conceived as being three components of a single, intergenerational relationship. These variables were assessed in 90 adolescent and 99 adult mother–infant dyads when infants were 12 months old. Initial variable-centered analyses replicated the frequently observed associations between these three core attachment variables. Relationship-based, latent class analyses then revealed that the most common pattern among young mother dyads featured maternal unresolved trauma, insensitive interactive behavior, and disorganized infant attachment (61%), whereas the most prevalent adult mother dyad relationship pattern involved maternal autonomy, sensitive maternal behavior, and secure infant attachment (59%). Three less prevalent relationship patterns were also observed. Moderation analyses revealed that the adolescent–adult mother distinction differentiated between secure and disorganized intergenerational relationship patterns, whereas experience of traumatic events distinguished between disorganized and avoidant patterns. Finally, socioeconomic status distinguished between avoidant and secure patterns. Results emphasize the value of a relationship-based approach, adding an angle of understanding to the study of attachment transmission.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Heidi N. Bailey, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, 4010 Mackinnon Extension, Room 3008, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada; E-mail: hnbailey@uoguelph.ca.

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