intense effort toward maintaining the semblance of bonds; inept mothers and their children scrap and feud; mildly abusing mothers and their infants are hostile and difficult, but many severely maltreating mothers and their children do not dare to challenge the durability of their relationships. Rather, they struggle to hide from themselves and from each other the tenuous nature of their bonds; it is as though they fear that a simple dispute could become an uncontrollable attack on the relationship. Such disasters cannot be risked often. This suggests that the pseudo-sensitive behavior of maltreating mothers and the pseudo-cooperative behavior of maltreated children are not false fronts offered to the prying observer, but rather reflect an armed peace protecting the interactants from themselves. Only those who have completely given up, who are totally depressed or angry beyond control, can withdraw from relationships entirely. These are the most tragic casualties a family can produce.
If this is so, procedures for assessing the quality of relationships need to be modified to include these more extreme form of behavior. The creation of an A/C category for the Strange Situation has been suggested as has the modification of the infant codes to differentiate a compulsively compliant pattern of interaction and to better describe the behavior of older maltreated children. Finally, the older children should be assessed in situations that neither force them into close proximity with their mothers nor threaten them with separation. It may be that, in these less dangerous situations, the older children express more negative emotions. Whatever the changes, they should be clearly tied to the functional meaning of behavior and to ecologically valid information. Without such external validation, it is possible that behaviors alone may guide our research rather than the function and meaning of behavior.
This research was supported, in part, by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Administration for Children, Youth, and Families, DHHS Grant # 90-CA-844. Additional support was received from the Charlottesville-Albermarle Association for Retarded Citizens and the Departments of Social Services in Charlottesville, VA and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, and Nelson.
Ainsworth M. D. S. ( 1984, April). Attachment, adaptation, and continuity. Paper presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, New York.