Three-Generation Attachment: How Grandmothers and Mothers Contribute to Children's Attachment Security

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Family Science






Taylor and Francis

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Infant attachment is influenced by the mother's responsiveness, which is, in turn, thought to be based on her own history of attachment. When a single mother lives with her own mother, the child's grandmother may influence the child's attachment not only indirectly through the mother's attachment history but also directly through the grandmother's involvement in caregiving and through the grandmother-mother relationship. As part of an Early Head Start study, 57 single mothers and 21 coresident grandmothers reported their adult attachment style at program enrollment. Mothers' parenting behaviors were observed at 14 and 24 months, and children's secure base behavior was reported by their mothers at 10, 14, and 18 months. Grandmothers' and mothers' security scores were related to children's security but in different directions. Because results suggest the importance of context in understanding intergenerational processes, a follow-up qualitative study was conducted when children were seven to eight years old in which three of the coresiding grandmother-mother dyads were interviewed about their past and current relationships and living arrangements. The qualitative results enrich the quantitative results by offering descriptions of how mothers and grandmothers see their relationships with each other and with the children in terms of patterns of influence between grandmothers and mothers and between mothers and children.


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