Specificity of a Mother's Attachment to Her Child Using the Attachment Inventory and Factors Related to Attachment: Longitudinal Research from Prenatal to Age Three

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The subjects of this longitudinal study were 83 mothers, who responded to questionnaires during the following five phases of their child's life: the fetal, neonatal, and one-, two-, and three-year-old phases. Using the Prenatal and Maternal Attachment Inventory, this study highlights items related to groups of mothers with high and low attachment to their children. Attachment is related both to maternal attitudes toward the child and to her own anxiety level. Attachment difficulties are first revealed in the prenatal period. The strength of a mother's attachment to her child strongly affects present and future relationships with that child.

INTRODUCTION

The inherent behavior of neonatal children should be allowed to develop under conditions that provide both security and support for the children (Bowlby, 1969). Such conditions of secure familiarity lead to secure and satisfied children who, themselves, develop an internal blueprint for subsequent attachment relationships. Mothers act in response to the attachment behavior of their children. When this mutual behavior is prolonged, it will develop into a complex relationship of attachment and this attachment, in turn, will facilitate interaction between mothers and children. Since the mother-child relationship is the foundation for all childhood development, maternal behavior is an important factor in the establishment of a good mother-child relationship.

Bowlby (1969) noted that maternal sensitivity could be an issue in the development of the mother-child relationship. Mothers to whom children show the most stable attachment respond to their children's messages quickly and adequately; it is important that mothers share the joy of social contact with their children. Mothers who have a strong attachment to their children are sensitive to, and cognizant of, signals from their children. This study assumes that the development of a child's personality is greatly affected by the way in which the mother raises that child.

Children are interconnected with their mother's emotional state in a dependent fashion, and form their own internal state according to their mother's internal state. Children are normally extraordinarily sensitive to emotional messages, and this causes the emotional state of the child to be affected by the mother's emotional state (Cramer, 1989). Therefore, the attachment between mothers and children after birth is influenced by the personality characteristics of the mother. Attachment is important in childhood, as it is in adolescence and adulthood, and the attachment experience that occurs early in a child's life plays an important role in later life (Feeney and Noller, 1996). In order for the attachment of a child to develop smoothly, the mother's behavior towards the child must be appropriate (Bates and Bayles, 1988).

Klaus and Kennell (1982) have pointed to how the mother's experience during pregnancy plays a role with respect to her relationship with the child. They found that women's adaptation to pregnancy is an important concept in this respect, and that attachment to the unborn fetus leads to a successful adaptation to maternity. They also found that this attachment continues after delivery. The emotional relationship between mother and child starts during gestation, which constitutes the first step in the development of the internal process of motherhood. A mother's experiences during gestation become the foundation for the mother-child relationship, a relationship that continues after the delivery.

Müller (1993) proposed a longitudinal model, which starts with the early attachment experience of the mother and lasts until the woman becomes attached to her unborn fetus after she becomes pregnant. The process of the attachment model is linked to the early attachment experience of the mother, which begins with her attachment to her family, then extends to her attachment to friends, and finally to her partner. …