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Very extensive nonmaternal care predicts mother–infant attachment disorganization: Convergent evidence from two samples

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2014

Nancy L. Hazen*
University of Texas at Austin
Sydnye D. Allen
Charles Sturt University
Caroline Heaton Christopher
Arizona State University
Tomotaka Umemura
Masaryk University
Deborah B. Jacobvitz
University of Texas at Austin
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nancy L. Hazen, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, 108 Dean Keaton Street, Stop A2702, Austin, TX 78712; E-mail:


We examined whether a maximum threshold of time spent in nonmaternal care exists, beyond which infants have an increased risk of forming a disorganized infant–mother attachment. The hours per week infants spent in nonmaternal care at 7–8 months were examined as a continuous measure and as a dichotomous threshold (over 40, 50 and 60 hr/week) to predict infant disorganization at 12–15 months. Two different samples (Austin and NICHD) were used to replicate findings and control for critical covariates: mothers' unresolved status and frightening behavior (assessed in the Austin sample, N = 125), quality of nonmaternal caregiving (assessed in the NICHD sample, N = 1,135), and family income and infant temperament (assessed in both samples). Only very extensive hours of nonmaternal care (over 60 hr/week) and mothers' frightening behavior independently predicted attachment disorganization. A polynomial logistic regression performed on the larger NICHD sample indicated that the risk of disorganized attachment exponentially increased after exceeding 60 hr/week. In addition, very extensive hours of nonmaternal care only predicted attachment disorganization after age 6 months (not prior). Findings suggest that during a sensitive period of attachment formation, infants who spend more than 60 hr/week in nonmaternal care may be at an increased risk of forming a disorganized attachment.

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