Infant-mother attachment classification: Risk and protection in relation to changing maternal caregiving quality

Jay Belsky, Cathryn L. Booth-LaForce, Robert Bradley, Celia A. Brownell, Margaret Burchinal, Susan B. Campbell, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Martha Cox, Sarah L. Friedman, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Jean F. Kelly, Bonnie Knoke, Kathleen McCartney, Marion O'Brien, Margaret Tresch Owen, Deborah Phillips, Susan Spieker, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Marsha Weinraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


The relations between early infant-mother attachment and children's social competence and behavior problems during the preschool and early school-age period were examined in more than 1,000 children under conditions of decreasing, stable, and increasing maternal parenting quality. Infants' Strange Situation attachment classifications predicted mothers' reports of children's social competence and teachers' reports of externalizing and internalizing behaviors from preschool age through 1st grade. These relations appeared to be mediated by parenting quality; main effects of attachment classification disappeared when effects of parenting quality were controlled. Interactions were also observed. For example, when parenting quality improved over time, teachers rated children with insecure infant-mother attachments lower on externalizing behaviors; when parenting quality decreased, teachers rated insecure children higher on externalizing behaviors. In contrast, children classified as securely attached in infancy did not appear to be affected by declining or improving parenting quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-58
Number of pages21
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior problems in preschoolers
  • Continuity from infancy to preschool
  • Early attachment security
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Risks and protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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