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Does attachment style influence social support or the other way around? A longitudinal study of Early Head Start mothers

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Understanding the association between attachment style and social support is important for informing programs that seek to improve outcomes for families by intervening with either or both of these systems. The present study examines whether increasing levels of social support among 181 low-income, primarily African American mothers leads to changes in their self-reported attachment style, or whether attachment style influences the extent to which they perceive others as supportive. Results suggest that whereas scores on the avoidant attachment dimension were relatively stable and led to decreasing perceptions of social support over time, scores on the anxious dimension were more malleable, at least under conditions of low stress. For mothers who experienced fewer stressful life events, increasing social support led to decreased attachment anxiety over time. However, when life stress was high, social support had no such positive influence. Implications for the need to attend to mothers' attachment styles in providing appropriate and effective intervention are discussed.
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Keywords: attachment; high risk families; parenting; social support

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: NPC Research, Oregon, OR, USA 2: Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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