The Contribution of Twinship and Health to
Early Interaction and Attachment Between
Premature Infants and Their Mothers
Klaus Minde, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C).
Carl Corter, Ph.D.
Susan Goldberg, Ph.D.
The parent-infant attachment relationship has long been a focus for theories concerning the origins of mental health and disturbance; in the past two decades, it has also been the focus of a great deal of empirical research. In this paper, we briefly review certain theoretical approaches that have inspired much of the research; this review reveals several unresolved theoretical issues and some limitations of existing research. These questions are then related to our own study, which has examined the mother-infant attachment relationship developing under the biological risk factors of prematurity, illness, and twin birth.
Watching the developing relationship between a mother and her twin infants permitted a particularly revealing examination of the maternal side of the relationship. By observing how the mother interacted with two different infants at the same time, we were able to determine how infant characteristics affect the mother's behavior and how these effects are changed or maintained over time. In addition, by employing a larger number of measures of maternal functioning than most previous researchers have done, ranging from objective observations of maternal behavior to interview analysis of maternal attitudes and affect, we could capture a more lifelike picture of early development.
Although the parent-child relationship is generally recognized as a dynamic dyad, theorists have nevertheless simplified matters by analyzing it primarily from the point of view of one of the participants. Thus the term attachment has generally been applied to infants' behaviors, cognitions, and feelings toward the mother, while the term bonding has been used to describe mothers' earliest feelings and behaviors toward their infants. Because so much of the work on attachment and bonding is based on Bowlby's theory of development, we first consider his account of processes in the development of human attachment.
Bowlby's belief in the importance of the attachment relationship has changed little since 1951 when he wrote that "what is believed to be essential for mental health is that the infant