Is attachment transmitted across generations? The plot thickens

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul;15(3):329-45. doi: 10.1177/1359104510365449.


Studies have demonstrated a strong relation between adult attachment security, using the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI), and infant security, using the Strange Situation Procedure (SSP). This suggests that a mother's representations of attachment may influence the development of her infant's attachment to her. This study both confirms and modifies that finding in a cohort of 47 first-time mothers and their infants. The AAIs were administered during the third trimester of pregnancy and the SSPs were performed when the infant was 14 months of age. The AAIs were classified using Crittenden's Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) and the SSPs using both the DMM and also Main and Solomon's ABC+D methods. There was a significant match of patterns for secure mothers and babies, but a tendency for inversion of insecure patterns of attachment, that is Type A mothers often had infants with a Type C pattern and vice versa. No significant relation was seen between the DMM adult and ABC+D infant patterns of attachment. A significant, but modest, association was found between the DMM and ABC+D infant SSP classifications. These findings may help guide treatment of insecure mother-infant dyads by individualizing interventions to include a focus on maternal representations of the infant and maternal responses to infant behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / therapy
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Models, Psychological
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Personality Assessment*
  • Personality Development
  • Personality Disorders / diagnosis
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Pregnancy
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / classification
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / diagnosis
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / psychology*
  • Temperament
  • Young Adult