Maternal interactive behaviour as a predictor of preschoolers' attachment representations among full term and premature samples

Early Hum Dev. 2013 May;89(5):349-54. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2012.11.006. Epub 2012 Dec 21.


Background: Associations between maternal sensitivity and child attachment have been established in many samples, but the strength of the association varies across populations. The sensitivity-attachment link has never been examined at the level of representations nor among premature samples.

Objective: The present study is aimed at exploring associations between maternal interactive behaviour and children's attachment representations in a population of preterm and full-term infants.

Method: Maternal interactive behaviour was assessed at 6 and 18 months (Ainsworth Sensitivity Scale & Care Index) and children's attachment representations were measured at 42 months (Attachment Story Completion Task) in a sample of preterm (N=48) and full-term (N=23) infants.

Results: Maternal unresponsiveness at 6 months and sensitivity at 18 months explained 54% of the variance of disorganized attachment representations in the full-term group but was not significantly related to attachment patterns in the preterm group.

Conclusion: These results corroborate previous work on the causes of disorganized attachment and also point to the need to consider the development of attachment differently for children evolving in specific developmental contexts. They especially stress the importance of distinguishing between risk factors associated with the mother as opposed to the child.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology