Pathways to disorganized attachment in infancy: are maternal depressed mood and disruptive life events meaningful contributors?

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Hinshaw-Fuselier, Sarah Seymour

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between maternal depressed mood, disruptive life events, and the infant-mother attachment relationship. Data were taken from a longitudinal study regarding the transition to parenthood in which 125 couples and their first-born children participated. Participant families represented a range of socioeconomic levels and ethnic backgrounds, though the majority were middle-class Caucasian families. Mothers completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies – Depression scale in their third trimester and at babies’ age 8 months; they also completed the Life Experiences Survey during their third trimester, at babies’ age 8 months and 12- 15 months. The Strange Situation Procedure was conducted with106 of the original 125 infant-mother dyads when babies were 12-15 months old. Patterns of maternal negative influence were significantly different for mothers of infants classified as Disorganized/secure than for all other groups. Mothers of Disorganized/secure infants reported more disruptive life events, more disruptive relationship events, and higher scores on the composite measures of disruptive events and maternal depressed mood. Maternal depressed mood was not related to infant-mother attachment organization. Level of infant disorganization was not related to maternal depressed mood, disruptive life events, or the interaction between them.