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      Is one secure attachment enough? Infant cortisol reactivity and the security of infant-mother and infant-father attachments at the end of the first year

      1 , 2 , 3 , 4
      Attachment & Human Development
      Informa UK Limited

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          Abstract

          Attachment security is theorized to shape stress reactivity, but extant work has failed to find consistent links between attachment security to mothers and infant cortisol reactivity. We examined family configurations of infant-mother and infant-father attachment security in relation to infant cortisol reactivity. One-year old infants (N =180) participated in the Strange Situation with mothers and fathers in two counterbalanced lab visits, one month apart (12 and 13 months). Distinguishable configurations of family attachment were identified and related to infants’ cortisol reactivity. Results supported a buffering-hierarchical hypothesis, in that infants with a secure attachment to mother, regardless of whether the attachment to father was secure or insecure, had lower cortisol levels than infants with a secure attachment to father, but not mother, and a typical stress response (increase, then decrease). Infants with secure attachments only to their fathers and not their mothers had higher cortisol levels than infants with a secure attachment to mother and also exhibited a blunted cortisol response (high at baseline and then a decrease after stress). Further, infants exhibited higher cortisol levels after the Strange Situation with their fathers than their mothers. Results suggest that a secure attachment to father may not be enough to reduce infant stress reactivity when the infant-mother attachment is insecure, and future research is needed to uncover the family dynamics that underlie different family configurations of attachment security.

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          Most cited references40

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          Conflict in the Development of Close Relationships

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            Adrenocortical responses to the strange situation in infants with disorganized/disoriented attachment relationships.

            Salivary cortisol levels were assessed in 19-month-old infants following the Ainsworth Strange Situation procedure. 38 infants participating in Project STEEP at the University of Minnesota served as subjects. Project STEEP is a longitudinal intervention program designed to promote healthy parent-child relationships and to prevent emotional problems among children born to mothers who are at high risk for parenting problems. Following the Strange Situation, saliva samples were collected and assayed for cortisol, a steroid hormone frequently examined in studies of stress. Behavior during the Strange Situation was coded by trained coders, and attachment classifications were determined for each infant. Cortisol concentrations did not differ between the 6 Avoidant/Resistant (A/C) and 17 Securely Attached (B) toddlers. Toddlers (n = 11) who were classified as having Disorganized/Disoriented (Type D) attachments exhibited higher cortisol concentrations than toddlers in the traditional (ABC) classifications. Results of this study were consistent with a model of stress reactivity that conceptualizes the organization of coping behaviors as a factor that mediates physiological stress responses.
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              Attachment security: a meta-analysis of maternal mental health correlates.

              This meta-analysis addresses the association between attachment security and each of three maternal mental health correlates. The meta-analysis is based on 35 studies, 39 samples, and 2,064 mother-child pairs. Social-marital support (r = .14; based on 16 studies involving 17 samples and 902 dyads), stress (r = .19; 13 studies, 14 samples, and 768 dyads), and depression (r = .18; 15 studies, 19 samples, and 953 dyads) each proved significantly related to attachment security. All constructs showed substantial variance in effect size. Ecological factors and approach to measuring support may explain the heterogeneity of effect sizes within the social-marital support literature. Effect sizes for stress varied according to the time between assessment of stress and assessment of attachment security. Among studies of depression, clinical samples yielded significantly larger effect sizes than community samples. We discuss these results in terms of measurement issues (specifically, overreliance on self-report inventories) and in terms of the need to study the correlates of change in attachment security, rather than just the correlates of attachment security per se.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Attachment & Human Development
                Attachment & Human Development
                Informa UK Limited
                1461-6734
                1469-2988
                March 2019
                September 03 2019
                March 06 2019
                September 03 2019
                : 21
                : 5
                : 426-444
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Psychology & William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA
                [2 ] Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA
                [3 ] Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                [4 ] Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
                Article
                10.1080/14616734.2019.1582595
                6779037
                30836833
                39263139-a076-4b0f-9038-58169c24ef84
                © 2019

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