Effects of maternal absence due to employment on the quality of infant-mother attachment in a low-risk sample.Child Dev. 1987 Aug; 58(4):945-54.CD
Recent reports have suggested that day-care experience initiated prior to 12 months of age is associated with increased proportions of infants whose attachment to mother is classified as "insecure-avoidant." However, reviewers have questioned the generality of these findings, noting that samples in which associations between early day-care experience and avoidant attachment patterns have been reported come from high-risk populations, and/or that the infants' day-care settings may not have been of high quality. In the present study, effects of maternal absences on infant-mother attachment quality were assessed in a low-risk, middle-class sample (N = 110). In all instances, substitute care had been initiated at least 4 months prior to the infant's first birthday and was provided in the infant's home by a person unrelated to the baby. Infants were assessed using the Ainsworth Strange Situation when they were 12-13 months of age. Analyses indicated that a significantly greater proportion of infants whose mothers worked outside the home (N = 54) were assigned to the category "insecure-avoidant" as compared to infants whose mothers remained in the home (N = 56) throughout the first year of life. Analyses of demographic and psychological data available for the sample indicated that this relation is dependent upon maternal parity (primi- vs. multiparous mother). The association between attachment quality and work status was significant only for firstborn children of full-time working mothers. The results are interpreted as evidence that the repeated daily separations experienced by infants whose mothers are working full-time constitute a "risk" factor for the development of "insecure-avoidant" infant-mother attachments.