Interactional Synchrony and Nurturance in Autonomous and Non-autonomous Caregivers

Simons, Cassandra
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University of Delaware
This thesis examines the relationship between adult attachment state of mind and observed ratings of parent sensitivity during periods of child distress. Although sensitive responsiveness in every day interaction is an essential part of building the attachment relationship, the way parents respond to infants during times when they are distressed may represent an especially important part of attachment development. Parents’ adult attachment state of mind is the strongest predictor of attachment in mother-child dyads (van Ijzendoorn, 1995). In the current study, a group of mothers from a high-risk sample were evaluated for sensitivity to distress using a 5-point scale during two stressful events, including the Strange Situation (Ainsworth, 1978) and a child finger prick episode. The results of this study showed that caregivers with autonomous states of mind were more sensitive than non-autonomous mothers during the finger prick, but were not significantly different from non-autonomous mothers in sensitivity during the Strange Situation. This finding is important because it suggests that maternal responsiveness and sensitivity are related to adult attachment state of mind, such that mothers with autonomous state of mind are more sensitive than nonautonomous mothers during situations in which their children are experiencing pain.