Parents' attachment styles, mental representations, and institutionalization of children in Bulgaria


  • This research was presented at the 2005 biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Atlanta, Georgia. This study is based on Galina Markova's 2004 PhD dissertation at the Smith College School for Social Work, directed by Robert Shilkret. We thank Jeane Anastas and Joan Berzoff, members of the dissertation committee, the mothers who participated, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


We first summarize the history, extent, and characteristics of institutionalization of non-orphan children in Bulgaria. Then we describe a study of certain psychological characteristics of mothers who use institutionalization compared with mothers similar in ethnicity and close-to-poverty circumstances, those using state daycare programs, and those using weekly care programs for their children. Institutionalizing mothers had been institutionalized themselves far more often than had the other mothers. On two attachment measures, as expected, institutionalizing mothers were less secure and more insecure than daycare mothers, with weekly care mothers intermediate. On a parental representation task, results were somewhat more equivocal. Results suggest that psychological characteristics, especially attachment style, are important in decisions to use institutionalization as a means of child care.