Intersections with Attachment

By Jacob L. Gewirtz; William M. Kurtines | Go to book overview

the cross-lag correlations. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that child and environment factors are mutually influencing relationships. Thus, the maternal environment at 12 months should be related to children's subsequent psychopathology in the same way that children's attachment at 12 months should be related to family conflict/harmony at six years. The point here is not to exclude the myriad of factors that influence children's subsequent psychopathology but to emphasize the limitations of the attachment construct when considered solely as a trait. Recall that when this trait model is used as in FIG. 1.1, it is argued that it is the child's status at Ct, that is related to the child's outcome at Ct2. The model as proposed in FIG. 1.2 and FIG. 1.7 suggests that the analysis is incomplete unless the environment of the child as well as the child's status is measured. When this is done, as in the present investigation, it is found that environmental influences act on the child at each point in time. Thus, the notion of attachment as "filling the vessel of the child" and as a consequence "being filled" the child has or does not have, subsequent psychopathology is an insufficient model of development. Rather it is necessary to look to a more complicated model, as proposed in FIG. 1.7. In this model, all possible paths to subsequent child outcome are considered. Early infant characteristics lead to later child outcome (a); early environment influences early infant characteristics, which influence later outcome (c + b); early environment influences later environment, which influences later child outcome (d + e); early environment is related to early infant characteristics, which influence later environment, which is related to later outcome (c + f + e). When the notion of attachment as a trait is held, it is not possible to explore the multiple paths of outcomes that can occur. It is quite remarkable that most studies on the outcome of early attachment behavior have not considered the nature of the child's environment at the time they measure the outcome status of the child. The failure to do so is evidence of a paradigm that holds attachment to operate as a trait. The data presented here point to the need to include environmental factors in our understanding of attachment and its consequences. Attachment in fact may be a measure of environment as much as it is a measure of a child's characteristic.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Support for this research and paper comes from the William T. Grant Foundation.


REFERENCES

Achenbach T. M. ( 1978). "The child behavior profile: 1. Boys aged 6-11". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46, 478-488.

Achenbach T M., & Edelbrock C. S. ( 1981). "Behavioral problems and competencies reported by parents of normal and disturbed children aged 4 through 16". Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 46.

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