Associations Between First-Time Expectant Women's Representations of Attachment and Their Physiological Reactivity to Infant Cry

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Abstract

Associations among 53 primiparous women's Adult Attachment Interview classifications (secure–autonomous vs. insecure–dismissing) and physiological and self-reported responses to infant crying were explored. Heart rate, skin conductance levels, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) were recorded continuously. In response to the cry, secure–autonomous women demonstrated RSA declines, consistent with approach-oriented responses. Insecure–dismissing women displayed RSA and electrodermal increases, consistent with behavioral inhibition. Furthermore, insecure–dismissing women rated the cries as more aversive than secure–autonomous women. Nine months postpartum, secure–autonomous women, who prenatally manifested an approach-oriented response to the unfamiliar cry stimulus, were observed as more sensitive when responding to their own distressed infant, whereas women classified prenatally as insecure–dismissing were observed as less sensitive with their own infants.

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