Maternal secure-base scripts and children's attachment security in an adopted sample.Attach Hum Dev. 2006 Sep; 8(3):261-73.AH
Studies of families with adopted children are of special interest to attachment theorists because they afford opportunities to probe assumptions of attachment theory with regard to the developmental timing of interactions necessary to form primary attachments and also with regard to effects of shared genes on child attachment quality. In Bowlby's model, attachment-relevant behaviors and interactions are observable from the moment of birth, but for adoptive families, these interactions cannot begin until the child enters the family, sometimes several months or even years post-partum. Furthermore, because adoptive parents and adopted children do not usually share genes by common descent, any correspondence between attachment representations of the parent and secure base behavior of the child must arise as a consequence of dyadic interaction histories. The objectives of this study were to evaluate whether the child's age at the time of adoption or at the time of attachment assessment predicted child attachment security in adoptive families and also whether the adoptive mother's internal attachment representation predicted the child's attachment security. The participants were 106 mother - child dyads selected from the 406 adoptions carried out through the Lisbon Department of Adoption Services over a period of 3 years. The Attachment Behavior Q-Set (AQS; Waters, 1995) was used to assess secure base behavior and an attachment script representation task was used to assess the maternal attachment representations. Neither child's age at the time of adoption, nor age of the child at assessment significantly predicted the AQS security score; however, scores reflecting the presence and quality of maternal secure base scripts did predict AQS security. These findings support the notion that the transmission of attachment security across generations involves mutual exchanges and learning by the child and that the exchanges leading to secure attachment need not begin at birth. These results complement the findings and conceptual arguments offered by Bowlby and Ainsworth concerning the critical influence of maternal representations of attachment to the quality of attachment security in children.