Transmission of attachment across three generations: Continuity and reversal

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul;15(3):347-54. doi: 10.1177/1359104510365451.


We followed a normative Finnish sample of primiparous mothers, fathers, and maternal grandmothers from pregnancy until the child was 3 years old (N = 32 families). The Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) was used to assess attachment in mothers, fathers and grandmothers during the last trimester of the mother's pregnancy. The Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA) was used to assess attachment in children at 3 years. Forty-seven percent of the 32 grandmother-mother-infant triads had the corresponding attachment classifications. Using EXACON for the analysis of single cells of 3 x 3 contingency tables with type-antitype classifications, and frequency tabulation of the major three-generation combinations, both triads indicating continuity across three generations (B/B/B 22% and A/A/A 19%) and reversal reactions (A/C/A and C/A/C 22%) were found. The results indicated continuity across three generations for Type B and for Type A and alternations from A to C and vice versa for insecure attachment. We discuss the implications of these findings for theory development and clinical work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Father-Child Relations
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Models, Psychological
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Object Attachment*
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Personality Assessment
  • Pregnancy
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / classification
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / diagnosis
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / psychology*