The Influence of Culturally Derived Values on Anglo and Puerto Rican Mothers' Perceptions of Attachment Behavior

Authors

  • Robin L. Harwood

    Corresponding author
    1. Yale University
      All correspondence should be sent to Robin Harwood, who is now at the Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148.
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  • This research was made possible through the support of the National Institutes of Health (MH 09911), the National Science Foundation (BNS 8903268), and the Yale Bush Center in Child Development and Social Policy. I would like to thank Edmund Gordon, William Kessen, Michael Lamb, Birgit Leyendecker, Joan Miller, Marta Moret, Axel Schoelmerich, Robert Sternberg, Edward Zigler, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, and Roger Weissberg for his support and advice. I also thank for their generous assistance the staffs of the LULAC Head Start and the WIC program of the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, CT. For their help with interviewing, translation, data coding, and analysis, I would like to express my appreciation to David Bersoff, Lisdemar Detres, Viviana Diaz-Bolsera, Licia Fiol-Matta, Omar Figueroa, Maria Fracasso, Larry Gall, Angelina Gerena, David Kalmar, Marie Martin, Ruth Martinez, Yanzel Muniz, Yiba Ng, Shane Rood, and Linda Rosenblit.

All correspondence should be sent to Robin Harwood, who is now at the Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148.

Abstract

This 2-part investigation examined indigenous concepts of desirable and undesirable attachment behavior among middle- and lower-class Anglo and lower-class Puerto Rican mothers in order to formulate culturally sensitive criteria of normative attachment behavior. Study 1 elicited indigenous concepts of desirable and undesirable attachment behavior using open-ended probes. On the basis of mothers' responses in Study 1, culturally sensitive vignettes of desirable and undesirable attachment behavior were constructed, and culturally relevant descriptors of toddler characteristics were selected. In Study 2, mothers' perceptions of the hypothetical toddlers were compared using the selected descriptors. The findings indicate that, whereas the Anglo mothers focus more on characteristics associated with the presence or absence of individual autonomy, the Puerto Rican mothers place more emphasis on the child's ability to maintain proper demeanor in a public context. These findings were coherent across mothers': (a) open-ended conceptualizations, (b) desirability ratings, and (c) descriptor ratings of the toddlers.

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