Culturally sensitive assessment of attachment in children aged 18–40 months in a South African township



The objective of our work is to study the possible relevance nonwestern cultural traditions have on the concordance of attachment patterns assessed in mothers and their young children. The attachment of 46 toddlers and their mothers, living in a black township in Johannesburg, South Africa, was assessed using scores derived from mother-child observations in the home (Attachment Q-Sort) and an interview (Working Model of the Child Interview). Mothers also had a semistructured psychiatric interview. Agreement between home observations and interview ratings was 29% for secure and 71% for insecure attachment when U.S.-developed scoring criteria for the interview were used. Agreement increased to 81% for secure and 67% for insecure attachment when the same protocols were rescored, using a culturally modified scoring system, developed by local cultural experts. This study suggests that verbal representations of attachment patterns are more influenced by cultural traditions than are actual parent-child interactions.