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Children classified as controlling at age six: Evidence of disorganized representational strategies and aggression at home and at school

  • Judith Solomon (a1), Carol George (a2) and Annemieke De Jong
Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine whether children classified as controlling in attachment differ from children classified into the traditional Ainsworth attachment categories in their symbolic representations of attachment and level of behavior problems. Sixty-nine middle-class kindergarten children and their mothers participated in a laboratory separation and reunion. Children enacted doll-play stories about attachment-related themes. A four-group representation classification scheme was developed from the doll-play transcripts of 27 children. Mothers (n = 44) completed Achenbach's Child Behavior Checklist and teachers (n = 40) completed a 30-item inventory of classroom behavior. Results showed significant agreement between the representational system and Main and Cassidy's classification system (1988) for children's reunion behavior. The doll-play of controlling children was characterized by themes of catastrophe and helplessness or by complete inhibition of play and suggested disorganization of representational processes. Controlling children also were described by mothers and teachers as significantly more aggressive than other children. The results validate the distinction between the controlling and traditional classification groups and suggest that controlling children are at risk for behavioral maladaptation at home and at school.

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Corresponding author
Judith Solomon, Center for the Family in Transition, 5725 Paradise Drive Bldg. B, Suite 300, Corte Madera, CA 94925.
References
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Development and Psychopathology
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