Academic journal article Studia Psychologica

Methods Used by Mothers to Help Children during Solving Cognitive Problem Tasks: Comparison between Mothers of Securely and Insecurely Attached Preschool Children

Academic journal article Studia Psychologica

Methods Used by Mothers to Help Children during Solving Cognitive Problem Tasks: Comparison between Mothers of Securely and Insecurely Attached Preschool Children

Article excerpt

Abstract: Attachment is a permanent emotional bond activated in children by signals that they perceive as frightening, dangerous or stressful, while in the parents' attachment system of care, it is activated by the goal of satisfying children's needs. The aim of this research was to determine which strategies mothers use in their interaction with children, aged 5 to 7 (N = 80) during their cognitive problem solving. More specifically, the goal was to ascertain if there is a difference in the sensitivity to children's cognitive needs on the part of mothers of securely and mothers of insecurely attached children. Compared to mothers of insecurely attached children, mothers of securely attached children more often help their child by giving it appropriate instructions (scaffolding). Mothers of insecurely attached children, in situations when the child's solution is incorrect, more often help their children by giving them long explanations, regardless whether the child listens or understands what is been said (a monologue).

Key words: attachment, preschool children, mothers, social interactions, strategy use


Integrating the results of research by Lorenz and Harlow and conclusions from the field of evolutionary biology, ethology and psychoanalysis, Bowlby (1969/82) developed the theory of attachment between children and mothers. In his theory, he defines attachment as a strong emotional bond with the object of attachment. This bond is characterized by closeness and proximity to the particular person, especially during times of threat and distress. Bowlby believes the attempt of getting close to a particular person to be a basic form of human behavior, which increases the probability of protection and survival. Parental behavior is organized and managed by a behavioral system of care and protection, and it is connected to the attachment behavior system of a child.

In 1969, Mary Ainsworth further elaborated on Bowlby's theory by drafting a method for evaluation of attachment (The Strange Situation) for children aged 12 to 20 months. In research using these techniques, children's reactions are described through two forms of behavior with the parent, which the author classifies as follows: securely attached children and insecurely attached children (anxious-ambivalent and anxious-avoidant). Main & Solomon (1986) also developed guidelines for classification of a third insecurely attached form of behavior, and they named it disorganized/disorientated.

Later development of measures that use pictorial material and puppets, has enabled the evaluation of attachment for older children as well. In this research, we used the MCAST (The Manchester Child Attachment Story Task) techniques (Green, Stanley, Smith, & Goldwyn, 2000).

According to the attachment theory, one of the parent's important roles is that the child's behavior, such as protection seeking and closeness (the role and goal of attachment for the child) changes into offering protection, comfort and care for the child (the role and goal for the parent). The parent's system of care is activated by internal and external signals associated with situations, which the parent perceives as frightening, dangerous or stressful for the child (George & Solomon, 2008).

When this system is activated, the parent needs to decide how to behave. This behavior depends on the evaluation of information from different sources. One of the sources is the evaluation of the child's signal and the other is the parent's evaluation of the threat or danger. There are also situations when the parent's care system is activated while the child's system is not. For example, situations when the parent believes the child is in danger while child does not see the same situation as dangerous. In that case, the parent's behavior could be controlling or intrusive (George & Solomon, 2008). Moreover, the parent is constantly required to accommodate each of the developmental stages of the child (Moss & Dubois-Comtois, 2004). …

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