Three-Year Follow-Up of Early
Peter de Château, M.D.
When the results of the de Château and Wiberg study were first published, Marshall Klaus and I were greatly interested because the study had some of the features of research design, and also vivid contrasts, of our original study on full-term infants reported in 1972. Our study showed that mothers who had one hour of contact with their baby in the first three hours and five additional hours of contact on the first three hospital days showed differences in behavior as a group at one month and at one year.
Our study in Cleveland had been carried out with poor mothers, primarily black and single, who were bottle-feeding their babies. The Swedish mothers de Château and Wiberg studied came from middle-class backgrounds, were married, and planned to breast-feed in the hospital. Prior to the de Château and Wiberg report, two studies of Guatemalan mothers with their infants in the first two days of life (Hales et al., 1976, 1977) had revealed significant differences in behavior with and without early contact. However, we were not surprised at the small number of differences detected in the Swedish mothers thirty-six hours after delivery during breast-feeding because of the technical difficulties of detecting differences in holding and feeding behavior when the mother is breast-feeding.
De Château and Wiberg's observation that there were significant differences in the behavior of the mothers in the two groups at three months confirmed that other investigators could find differences in a totally different population in a home visit. At that time we did not have the technology to make precise observations of the infant's behavior, so the significant differences in infant behavior that they found in the two groups added a new dimension. In their introduction to the paper that follows here, de Château and Wiberg suggest that the exposure of the newborn infant "at an early stage to certain modalities like skin and suckling contact ... may perhaps be an important precursor for integration of one's personality and subsequent capacity to relate to other individuals." This is different from our original concept. It was our hypothesis that the events in the first minutes and hours after delivery might affect the later attachment and parenting behavior of the mother and father, and in turn their greater interest, affection, and attention to their infant repeated over and over again would result in differences such as were