The relation of infant attachment to attachment and cognitive and behavioural outcomes in early childhood

Early Hum Dev. 2014 Sep;90(9):459-64. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Jul 7.


Background: In China, research on the relation of mother-infant attachment to children's development is scarce.

Aims: This study sought to investigate the relation of mother-infant attachment to attachment, cognitive and behavioural development in young children.

Study design: This study used a longitudinal study design.

Subjects: The subjects included healthy infants (n=160) aged 12 to 18 months.

Outcome measures: Ainsworth's "Strange Situation Procedure" was used to evaluate mother-infant attachment types. The attachment Q-set (AQS) was used to evaluate the attachment between young children and their mothers. The Bayley scale of infant development-second edition (BSID-II) was used to evaluate cognitive developmental level in early childhood. Achenbach's child behaviour checklist (CBCL) for 2- to 3-year-olds was used to investigate behavioural problems.

Results: In total, 118 young children (73.8%) completed the follow-up; 89.7% of infants with secure attachment and 85.0% of infants with insecure attachment still demonstrated this type of attachment in early childhood (κ=0.738, p<0.05). Infants with insecure attachment collectively exhibited a significantly lower mental development index (MDI) in early childhood than did infants with secure attachment, especially the resistant type. In addition, resistant infants were reported to have greater social withdrawal, sleep problems and aggressive behaviour in early childhood.

Conclusion: There is a high consistency in attachment development from infancy to early childhood. Secure mother-infant attachment predicts a better cognitive and behavioural outcome; whereas insecure attachment, especially the resistant attachment, may lead to a lower cognitive level and greater behavioural problems in early childhood.

Keywords: Attachment development; Cognitive and behavioural development; Early childhood; Insecure; Mother–infant attachment; Secure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Longitudinal Studies