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Mothers' and fathers' working models of childhood attachment relationships, parenting styles, and child behavior

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2008

Deborah A. Cohn*
Affiliation:
University of Virginia, Berkeley
Philip A. Cowan
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Carolyn P. Cowan
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Jane Pearson
Affiliation:
National Institute of Mental Health
*
Address correspondence to: Deborah A. Cohn, Department of Psychology, Gilmer Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

Abstract

This study addresses the question of whether or not parents' working models of childhood attachments constitute a risk factor for difficulties in current parent-child relations. In a sample of 27 families and their preschool-aged children, mother-child and father-child dyads were observed in separate laboratory play sessions from which ratings of parents' and children's behavior were collected. Working models of attachment were assessed using the Adult Attachment Interview (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1984). Results showed that parents classified as insecure were less warm and provided less structure in interactions with their children than did parents classified as secure. Children of insecure parents were less warm toward their parents than were children of secure parents. Analyses of parents' joint attachment classification showed that insecure women married to insecure men were less warm and provided less structure with their children than did mothers in either the insecure-secure or secure-secure dyads. These findings suggest that, in two-parent families, an insecure working model may be a risk factor for less competent parenting but that the risk is more pronounced when both parents have insecure working models of attachment.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1992

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