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Are infant crying and maternal responsiveness during the first year related to infant-mother attachment at 15 months?

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In this longitudinal investigation, Bell and Ainsworth's (1972) Baltimore study on maternal responsiveness, infant crying and infant attachment security was replicated and extended. Each of the 50 families was observed at home during more than 20 hours, and infant crying behavior as well as maternal responses were recorded. Mothers and their infants were observed in the Strange Situation procedure at 15 months of age. Descriptive results showed that infants produced about the same number of crying bouts across the first 40 weeks after birth, but the duration of the bouts decreased by half during this period. The duration of crying peaked in the first nine weeks. The descriptive data are remarkably similar to the findings of Bell and Ainsworth (1972). Maternal responsiveness influenced crying behavior. Contrary to our expectations, the more frequently mothers ignored their infants' crying bouts in the first nine-week period, the less frequently their infants cried in the following nine-week period, even if intervening variables like earlier crying and synchronous responsiveness were controlled for. 'Benign neglect' of fussing may stimulate the emergent abilities in infants to cope with mild distress. Extending an earlier report on this investigation (Hubbard & van IJzendoorn, 1991), we found that crying at home did not differentiate between secure and insecure attachment classifications, and it was not related to Strange Situation crying. Mothers of avoidant infants responded most promptly to their infants' crying. The failure to replicate the Baltimore findings was interpreted in terms of 'differential responsiveness'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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