Maternal reflective functioning, mother-infant affective communication, and infant attachment: exploring the link between mental states and observed caregiving behavior in the intergenerational transmission of attachment

Attach Hum Dev. 2005 Sep;7(3):299-311. doi: 10.1080/14616730500245963.


This study examines the link between mental representations and maternal behavior within the intergenerational transmission of attachment. Maternal reflective functioning was hypothesized to predict the quality of mother-infant affective communication based on the AMBIANCE measure. Each of these measures was also considered as a predictor of the quality of infant attachment. The subjects were 45 mothers and their 10-14-month-old infants. Results supported each of the study's major hypotheses. The AMBIANCE measure and the reflective functioning measure had a strong negative correlation. Thus, the level of disruption in mother-infant affective communication was inversely related to the level of maternal reflective functioning. The AMBIANCE measure was also shown to be a very good predictor of infant attachment. Mothers with high AMBIANCE scores were more likely to have infants classified as disorganized or resistant, whereas mothers with low AMBIANCE scores were more likely to have infants classified as secure. A linear regression analysis indicated that maternal behavior mediates the impact of maternal reflective functioning upon infant attachment. Implications for attachment theory and early intervention are explored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Processes*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychological Theory