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The Social Transmission of Parental Behavior: Attachment across Generations

Margaret H. Ricks
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 50, No. 1/2, Growing Points of Attachment Theory and Research (1985), pp. 211-227
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/3333834
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3333834
Page Count: 17
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The Social Transmission of Parental Behavior: Attachment across Generations
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Abstract

Research guided by attachment theory as formulated by Bowlby and Ainsworth is branching out in exciting new directions. The 12 chapters collected together in this Monograph present theoretical and methodological tools that will facilitate further research on attachment across the life span, across generations, and across cultures. The Monograph is divided into 4 parts. Part 1 provides the theoretical framework, emphasizing the ethological and the psychoanalytic roots of attachment theory. Two central ideas in attachment theory are highlighted: attachment as grounded in a behavioral-motivational control system whose set-goal is felt security, and the notion that individuals construct internal working models of self and attachment figures that guide the interpretation and production of behavior. These themes are repeatedly taken up in other chapters of the Monograph. Part 2 is concerned with translating theory into measurement. In Chapter II, Waters and Deane present a Q-sort suitable for assessing attachment security in 12-36-month-olds. This instrument is based on Bowlby's control systems model of attachment. In Chapter III, Main, Kaplan, and Cassidy offer a variety of highly original measures for assessing security in children and adults that have been validated against attachment classifications in infancy. These measures open new avenues for research by moving the study of attachment to the level of representation. Part 3 (Chaps. IV-IX) is organized around issues in adaptation, maladaptation, and intergenerational transmission. Vaughn, Deane, and Waters (Chap. IV) examine short-term and long-term adaptations to nonmaternal care. Findings on short-term adaptation to high-quality day care seemed benign; those on long-term adaptation illustrate that outcome is jointly dependent on attachment security and on whether or when the mother returns to work. In Chapter V, Dontas, Maratos, Fafoutis, and Karangelis present a field study, conducted in a model infant home in Greece, describing 8-12-month-olds' 2-week adaptations to a new principal caregiver (the adoptive mother) in a supportive setting. The theme of Chapters VI and VII is continuity of adaptation from infancy to early childhood in a poverty and in a middle-class sample. Significant relationships between early insecure attachment classification and later preschool behavior problems are reported for the poverty sample (Erickson, Sroufe, & Egeland, Chap. VI) but not for the middle-class sample (Bates, Maslin, & Frankel, Chap. VII), despite the fact that mother-infant interaction at 6, 13, and 24 months was related to attachment classifications in predictable ways. In Chapter VIII, Schneider-Rosen, Braunwald, Carlson, and Cicchetti discuss infants' adaption to maltreatment. They report a preponderance of insecure attachment classifications at 12, 18, and 24 months, with avoidant classifications becoming dominant at the later ages. Secure attachment in abused children is explained in terms of multifactorial compensatory and potentiating influences. In the concluding chapter of this section, Ricks reviews intergenerational effects related to attachment. Two domains are considered: effects of early separation and familial disruption on parental behavior in the next generation, and continuity in quality of attachment. Part 4 (Chaps. X-XII) is devoted to cross-national research on attachment in infancy. Grossmann, Grossmann, Spangler, Suess, and Unzner (Chap. X) present findings for North German mother-infant pairs, observed at home and in the Strange Situation. This first attempt at replicating the classic Baltimore study corroborated associations between Strange Situation classifications and maternal sensitivity to infant signals reported by Ainsworth and her colleagues. However, the overrepresentation of group A (avoidant) classifications in this sample is ascribed to a culturally valued emphasis on early independence rather than to maternal rejection. In Chapter XI, Sagi, Lamb, Lewkowicz, Shoham, Dvir, and Estes report a high proportion of insecure-resistant (C) classifications in 12-month-old Israeli kibbutz infants, who were observed with mother, father, and metapelet. This finding is explained in terms of heightened stranger anxiety rather than insecurity. A comparison group of Israeli city infants in day care resembled U.S. samples in terms of Strange Situation groups. The insecure-resistant group (C) was also overrepresented in Japan (Miyake, Chen, & Campos, Chap. XII), where C classification was correlated with neonatal temperament but also with maternal interactive behavior. In view of the infants' lack of experience with nonfamilial care, the C classification in Japan is not interpreted as an index of insecure-resistant attachment. Two additional themes running through the Monograph deserve special mention. These are (a) a concern with epigenetic explanations, charting different developmental pathways for secure and insecure infants, and (b) consideration of exceptional cases that do not, at first sight, fit predictions derived from the epigenetic perspective.

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