Parents’ joint attachment representations and caregiving : the moderating role of marital quality
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This study examined how mothers’ and fathers’ joint attachment representations, assessed prenatally, predict parent’s caregiving behavior with their 8-month olds. Adults’ representations of their relationships with their parents during childhood have been shown to influence the quality of care they provide their infants. Also, the attachment statuses of both partners in a couple, considered jointly, have been associated with the couple’s marital quality. Less is known about the effect of couples’ joint attachment representations on their individual caregiving quality. The influence of the spouse’s attachment security on a parent’s caregiving might be direct via modeling. It is also possible that sensitive care provided by the spouse will motivate an insecure parent to reflect on negative experiences during his or her own childhood, thus enabling that parent to provide more sensitive care with his or her own child. The spouses’ joint attachment status might also affect marital quality, which in turn could influence caregiving. Direct associations between couples’ joint attachment status and each parent’s caregiving quality as well as the extent to which marital quality moderates relations between parents’ joint attachment security and their caregiving behaviors were examined. Participants were followed over the transition to first-time parenthood and included 116 families. Prenatally, each parent was administered the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). To assess their marital quality, couples were videotaped for 30 minutes discussing sources of disagreement. When infants were 8 months old, mothers and fathers were videotaped separately for 30 minutes each playing, feeding and changing their infant’s clothes, to assess caregiving quality. Based in their AAI scores, couples were placed into an attachment pairing group: Secure-Secure, mother Secure-father Insecure, mother Insecure-father Secure, and Insecure-Insecure. Results indicated mothers’ caregiving was not affected by pairing, but father’s was. Marital quality also differed by pairing. No moderation was found through the interaction of marital quality and attachment pairings predicting parents’ caregiving. Findings underscore the value of looking at joint rather than individual attachment representations when examining the relation of parents’ attachment representations to fathers’ caregiving during infancy and marital quality.