Mother- and father-child attachment themes in the story completions of pre-schoolers from post-divorce families: do they predict relationships with peers and teachers?Attach Hum Dev. 2001 Apr; 3(1):1-29.AH
Based on Bowlby's claim that 'internal working models' of self-with-parent influence the way a child approaches relationships with others, this study examined attachment representations of 66 pre-schoolers (39 boys, 27 girls) in relation to teachers' or child-care providers' perceptions of their social competence. The study goes beyond previous related studies in three ways: (1) all children were from post-divorce families; (2) mother- and father-child representations were examined separately; and (3) teachers rated their own relationship to the child in addition to children's socially competent behaviors and behavior problems with peers. Attachment representations were assessed with an expanded version of the Attachment Story Completion Task (see Bretherton, Ridgeway, & Cassidy, 1990) adapted for children of divorce by presenting the mother and father as living in separate houses. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that children's enactments of child-mother attachment behavior in their story completions were the best predictor of boys' and girls' teacher-rated social competence. However, boys' and girls' enactments of empathy toward mother and father as well as child-father attachment themes correlated with social competence in opposite directions: For boys, these narrative enactments were related positively to social competence, while for girls, these relationships were negative. Theoretical and methodological implications of the findings for children of divorce and for assessing the working model construct are discussed.