Adult attachment style and stress as risk factors for early maternal sensitivity and negativity

Journal Article (Academic Article)

The current study examined the individual and joint effects of self-reported adult attachment style, psychological distress, and parenting stress on maternal caregiving behaviors at 6 and 12 months of child age. We proposed a diathesis-stress model to examine the potential deleterious effects of stress for mothers with insecure adult attachment styles. Data from 137 mothers were gathered by the longitudinal Durham Child Health and Development Study. Mothers provided self-reports using Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) Adult Attachment Style measure, the Brief Symptom Inventory, and the Parent Stress Inventory; observations of parenting data were made from 10-minute free play interactions. Consistently avoidant mothers were less sensitive with their infants than consistently secure mothers; however, this effect was limited to avoidant mothers who experienced elevated levels of psychological distress. Results suggest that the association between insecure adult attachment style and insensitive parenting behavior is moderated by concurrent psychosocial stress. Clinical implications for these findings are discussed.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mills Koonce, WR; Appleyard, K; Barnett, M; Deng, M; Putallaz, M; Cox, M

Published Date

  • 2011

Published In

  • Infant Mental Health Journal

Volume / Issue

  • 32 /

Start / End Page

  • 27 - 285