Maternal sensitivity to infant distress and nondistress as predictors of infant-mother attachment security

J Fam Psychol. 2006 Jun;20(2):247-55. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.20.2.247.


In considering Bowlby's (1969/1982) conceptualization of attachment as a "biobehavioral safety-regulating system," Goldberg, Grusec, & Jenkins (1999) proposed that maternal sensitivity to infant distress may be particularly relevant to the formation of a secure attachment relationship. Data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care provided a unique opportunity to address this question as maternal sensitivity to nondistress and distress were each coded for 357 mother-infant dyads at 6 months and 230 dyads at 15 months from videotaped observations of mother-infant play sessions. Attachment security was assessed in the Strange Situation at 15 months. Logistic regression analyses indicated that greater sensitivity to distress (but not greater sensitivity to nondistress) at 6 months was associated with increased odds of being classified as secure. The 15-month sensitivity measures were nonsignificant predictors of security. The results support the notion that the protective function of the child-mother attachment relationship may be especially salient during early infancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Demography
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament
  • Videotape Recording