Affect expression in mother-infant interaction and subsequent attachment development.Infant Behav Dev. 2009 Apr; 32(2):208-15.IB
Study results diverge considerably in respect of the range of emotions expressed and control of negative affect by mothers in subsequently securely and insecurely attached dyads. The present study thus analyzes whether attachment security can be predicted by preceding maternal style of affect expression and control. Participants were 89 healthy firstborn infants and their primary caregivers. Infants' and mothers' positive and negative affect expression and maternal lack of openness (i.e. attempts to mask negative emotion) were assessed at 4, 8, and 12 months. Attachment security was assessed at 18 months using Ainsworth's Strange Situation Procedure. At 4 months, a pattern consisting of positive maternal affect expression accompanied by neutral or negative expression in the infant was associated with later insecurity. At 12 months, low maternal openness, low amount of negative affect expression and the coincidence of mother and infant's positive affect expression were linked to insecurity. Thus, in the infant's first months mothers in subsequently insecurely attached dyads show a high amount of positive emotion which is often not shared with the infant. At the end of the infant's first year these mothers show a less open emotion communication style, including attempts to hide negative affect and heightening of positive mood.