Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment

Child Dev. 1990 Oct;61(5):1617-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1990.tb02888.x.


This study was designed to test the hypothesis that increased physical contact, experimentally induced, would promote greater maternal responsiveness and more secure attachment between infant and mother. Low-SES mothers of newborn infants were randomly assigned to an experimental group (n = 23) that received soft baby carriers (more physical contact) or to a control group (n = 26) that received infants seats (less contact). Using a transitional probability analysis of a play session at 31/2 months, it was demonstrated that mothers in the experimental group were more contingently responsive than control mothers to their infants' vocalizations. When the infants were 13 months old, the Ainsworth Strange Situation was administered. Significantly more experimental than control infants were securely attached to their mothers. We infer from these results that for low-income, inner-city mothers, there may be a causal relation between increased physical contact, achieved through early carrying in a soft baby carrier, and subsequent security of attachment between infant and mother.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Equipment*
  • Infant, Newborn / psychology*
  • Language Development
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Temperament
  • Touch*