Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment? An Experimental Study of the Effects of Increased Physical Contact on the Development of Attachment

Authors


  • Portions of this study were submitted to Yeshiva University by the second and third authors in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctorate of Philosophy. The research was supported by funds from Snugli Cottage Industries, Ross Laboratories, and the generous contributions of several private donors. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Everett Waters in the scoring of the Strange Situation tapes. We also thank the following, who contributed at various times throughout the study: Moshe Anisfeld, Hetty Cunningham, Carol Feingold, Karen Fleiss, Gabriela Garcia, Oriana Linares, Pat Shrout, and Deborah Wagner. Virginia Casper is currently affiliated with Bank Street College of Education, New York, NY. Molly Nozyce is currently affiliated with the BronxLebanon Hospital Center, Bronx, NY.

Requests for reprints should be addressed to: Elizabeth Anisfeld, Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University, 630 West 168th St., New York, NY 10032.

Abstract

This study was designed to test the hypothesis that increased physical contact, experimentally induced, would promote greater maternal responsiveness and more secure attachment between infant and mother. Low-SES mothers of newborn infants were randomly assigned to an experimental group (n= 23) that received soft baby carriers (more physical contact) or to a control group (n= 26) that received infant seats (less contact). Using a transitional probability analysis of a play session at 31/2 months, it was demonstrated that mothers in the experimental group were more contingently responsive than control mothers to their infants' vocalizations. When the infants were 13 months old, the Ainsworth Strange Situation was administered. Significantly more experimental than control infants were securely attached to their mothers. We infer from these results that for low-income, inner-city mothers, there may be a causal relation between increased physical contact, achieved through early carrying in a soft baby carrier, and subsequent security of attachment between infant and mother.

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