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Understanding the transmission of attachment using variable- and relationship-centered approaches


The interrelations of maternal attachment representations, mother–infant interaction in the home, and attachment relationships were studied in 99 adolescent mothers and their 12-month-old infants. A q-factor analysis was used to identify emergent profiles of mother and infant interaction. Traditional multivariate statistical analyses were complemented by a relationship-based approach utilizing latent class analysis. The results confirmed many theoretical predictions linking interaction with autonomous maternal representations and secure attachment, but failed to support a mediating role for maternal sensitivity. Strong associations were found between mothers displaying nonsensitive and disengaged interaction profiles, infants who did not interact harmoniously with the mother and preferred interaction with the visitor, unresolved maternal representations, and disorganized attachment relationships. Moreover, maternal nonsensitive and disengaged interaction in the home mediated the association between unresolved representations and disorganization. The results of the latent class analysis were consistent with these findings and revealed additional, empirically derived associations between attachment classifications and patterns of interactive behavior, some of which prompt a reconsideration of our current understanding of attachment transmission in at-risk populations.This research was supported by a predoctoral fellowship to the first author from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and by research grants to the second and third authors from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, and Health Canada.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Heidi Neufeld Bailey, Department of Psychology, MacKinnon Building, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada; E-mail:
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