‘Adoption and attachment theory’ the attachment models of adoptive mothers and the revision of attachment patterns of their late-adopted children


Cecilia S. Pace, Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, University of Rome, via degli Apuli 1, Rome, 00185 Lazio, Italy
E-mail: ceciliapace@fastwebnet.it


Objective  This study examined the attachment patterns of late-adopted children (aged 4–7) and their adoptive mothers during the first 7- to 8-month period after adoption and aimed to evaluate the effect of adoptive mothers' attachment security on the revision of the attachment patterns of their late-adopted children.

Design  We assessed attachment patterns in 20 adoptive dyads and 12 genetically related dyads at two different times: T1 (time 1) within 2 months of adoption and T2 (time 2) 6 months after T1.

Methods  The children's behavioural attachment patterns were assessed using the Separation-Reunion Procedure and the children's representational (verbal) attachment patterns using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task. The attachment models of the adoptive mothers were classified using the Adult Attachment Interview.

Results  We found that there was a significant enhancement of the late-adopted children's attachment security across the time period considered (P= 0.008). Moreover, all the late-adopted children who showed a change from insecurity to security had adoptive mothers with secure attachment models (P= 0.044). However, the matching between maternal attachment models and late-adopted children's attachment patterns (behaviours and representations) was not significant.

Conclusions  Our data suggest that revision of the attachment patterns in the late-adopted children is possible but gradual, and that the adoptive mothers' attachment security makes it more likely to occur.