Broadening the Study of Infant Security of Attachment: Maternal Autonomy-support in the Context of Infant Exploration


Natasha Whipple, Annie Bernier, Geneviève A. Mageau, Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, P.O. Box 6128 Downtown Station, Montreal, QC, Canada H3C 3J7. Email:;;


Although security of attachment is conceptualised as a balance between infants' attachment and exploratory behaviours, parental behaviours pertaining to infant exploration have received relatively little empirical attention. Drawing from self-determination theory, this study seeks to improve the prediction of infant attachment by assessing maternal autonomy-support during infant exploration, in addition to maternal sensitivity. Seventy-one dyads participated in two home visits. Maternal sensitivity was assessed when the infants were 12 months old, whereas maternal autonomy-support and infant attachment were assessed at 15 months. The results revealed that autonomy-support explained an additional portion of the variance in attachment when maternal socioeconomic status and sensitivity were controlled. These results speak to the relevance of a theory-driven approach to examining maternal behaviours in the context of child exploration.