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Impact of Maternal Characteristics and Contextual Variables on Infant-Mother Attachment

NCJ Number
Child Development Volume: 75 Issue: 2 Dated: March/April 2004 Pages: 480-496
Date Published
April 2004
17 pages

Using both individual and contextual factors, this prospective study examined the effects of maternal characteristics, social support, and risk factors on infant-mother attachment in a heterogeneous sample.


Study results overall support the importance of both individual and contextual factors in determining the characteristics of the infant-mother attachment. The study found that maternal perceptions of the nature of caregiving for infants was important in their reporting of maternal attachment experience. Study findings also showed the importance of maternal social support as having a direct influence on positive mother-infant attachments. Risk factors were indirectly related to the characteristics of the mother-child attachment. Risk factors included poverty, low socioeconomic status, single parenthood, and domestic violence. These factors were significantly related to prenatal representations of caregiving, with more risks related to less secure representations of the mother-infant attachment. Bivariate correlations found a strong relationship between representations of the infant and representations of the self as a mother. As expected, prenatal representations of caregiving were significantly related to infant attachment security at 1 year. More secure or balanced representations, characterized by richness, coherence, sensitivity toward the infant, and a greater sense of competence as a caregiver were related to greater infant attachment security. In addition, the findings suggest that a mother's own childhood experiences of maternal attachment influence their representations of the characteristics of the mother-infant attachment. Study participants were 206 pregnant women enrolled in a longitudinal study that is examining the effects of domestic violence on the physical and psychological health of a diverse group of pregnant women and their children. Women were contacted every 90 days through the infants' first year. Information was obtained on the mothers' maternal attachment experiences in childhood, the prenatal representations of the infant and self as a mother, and the infant-mother attachment. 2 tables and 72 references

Date Published: April 1, 2004