Infant – Mother Attachment among the Dogon of Mali



This study of mothers and infants from the Dogon ethnic group of Mali, West Africa examined three attachment hypotheses: (1) that infant attachment security is linked to the quality of mother – infant communication, (2) that mothers of secure infants respond more sensitively to their infants than do mothers of insecure infants, and (3) that infant disorganization is linked to maternal frightened or frightening behaviors. Participants were 27 mother – infant pairs from a rural town and 15 mother – infant pairs from two agrarian villages; infants ranged in age from 10 to 12.5 months at the first assessment. The distribution of the Strange Situation classifications was 67% secure, 0% avoidant, 8% resistant, and 25% disorganized. Infant attachment security was significantly related to the quality of mother – infant communication as observed in a well-infant exam. The correlation between infant attachment security ratings and maternal sensitivity (assessed in the home) was modest and approached significance. Mothers of disorganized infants had significantly higher ratings of frightened or frightening behaviors. Maternal sensitivity predicted little of the variance in infant security; however, the addition of the frightened/frightening variable in the regression equation tripled the explained variance. The findings are discussed in light of Dogon childrearing practices and key tenets of attachment theory.