The relationship between attachment classification and emotion regulation in the Strange Situation

Voran, Miriam Judith, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Phillips, Deborah, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Scarr, Sandra, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Marvin, Robert, Department of Psychiatry and NB Sciences, University of Virginia

Attachment and emotion regulation are overlapping constructs. Attachment classifications are considered to vary by the child's emotion regulation strategies used to maintain proximity and "felt security" in relation to the attachment figure. The present study tests hypotheses implicit in attachment theory about emotion regulation strategies in the Strange Situation. Two related constructs, emotion expression and emotion regulation strategies, were coded in a sample of 80 12-month-old infant Strange Situations with equal numbers of four attachment groups (avoidant, resistant, secure Bl/B2, and secure B3/B4). These constructs were coded from the initial episode and four episodes of stranger entry and maternal separation. To increase the independence of these emotion measures from attachment classification, reunions were not coded. As expected, negative affect, and two regulatory strategies (self-contained and mother-directed) increased as episodes became more stressful. B3/B4s and Cs showed more negative emotion, more mother-directed, and fewer environmentdirected strategies than As and Bl/B2s. In most cases, the secure subgroup (Bl/B2 or B3/B4 could not be distinguished from the adjacent insecure group. Attachment differences in emotionality and regulatory strategies became most pronounced in episode 6 (child alone). Results are interpreted as consistent with attachment theory, but also highlighting the orthogonal nature of emotionality to attachment. The methodological difficulties in studying emotion regulation and the usefulness of analyzing these data from a more ethological perspective are also discussed.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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