Maternal emotional availability and responsivity in the strange situation

Watkins, Yvonne K., Curry Programs in Clinical and School Psychology, University of Virginia
Hrncir, Elizabeth J., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Pianta, Robert, Dean's Office, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Moss, Susan, University of Virginia
Shackelford, Lon, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

A 15-point scale (DRO) was developed to assess maternal responsivity in the Strange Situation with a sample consisting of 65 non-risk mothers and their 18-month old infants. Mother-infant dyads were videotaped in the Ainsworth strange situation. Infant attachment was assessed using Ainsworth's system in which infants are classified as secure (B), anxious-avoidant (A), or anxious-ambivalent (C). Maternal responsivity was assessed using the DRO scale in which mothers are classified as detached (O), responsive (R), or overly responsive (O).

Within the two Strange Situation reunion episodes, significant differences were obtained between mothers' scores in the first minute and in the second two minutes of the reunion. Mothers' responses to their infants tended to increase in intensity with the passage of time during each of the reunion episodes, suggesting that the mothers' own unresolved issues regarding separation and individuation are being triggered in this setting.

Although 85% of the mothers classified as responsive according to the DRO scale had securely attached babies, due to the low numbers of anxiously-attached babies (A and C classifications), the scale's ability to effectively discriminate among maternal response patterns and their correlations with infant attachment categories cannot be determined at this time. The homogeneity of the sample resulted in the majority of mothers and infants being classified as responsive and securely attached, respectively. Few mothers displayed any detached or rejecting behaviors overall, and few babies fell in the anxious-ambivalent category. In future work, the DRO scale will be applied to a more heterogeneous sample in order to determine its effectiveness as an assessment tool for measuring maternal responsiveness in the strange Situation procedure.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Mother and infant, Attachment behavior
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