Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Lawrence Grebstein


Maternal interaction style (often conceived as sensitivity) and security of attachment have long been considered to have an important relationship (Ainsworth et al., 1978; Grossmann et al., 1985; Belsky Rovine, and Taylor,1984; Isabella and Belsky,1991). However, the construct of maternal sensitivity is not consistently defined or measured in the literature. Using videotaped data of 33 mother-infant dyads, we identified the relevant components of maternal sensitivity as related to attachment outcomes. Data consisted of (1) six weekly naturalistic observations of free-play interaction in the home at 6 month and again at 9 months of age (i.e. 12 assessments for each dyad); (2) face-to-face interactions conducted in the laboratory at 6 and 9 months; (3) Ainsworth Strange Situation at 12 months during a laboratory visit; and (4) a Q-sort measure of attachment security. Scoring systems appropriate to each of these assessments were used. Multiple home assessments were used so that a series of observations could be aggregated to form reliable measures of the maternal sensitivity scales.

The effects of age level, setting, and number of observations considered were examined in terms of relation to attachment classification and attachment security measures. Results indicated that (1) aggregation of multiple home observations produces highly reliable and consistent assessment measures (2) laboratory measures are related to home observations (3) neither home nor laboratory observations predict attachment classifications outcomes and (4) home, but not laboratory observations, are related to security of attachment as measured by the Q-sort.

Current findings are discussed in the context of previous attachment research. Methodological as well as theoretical explanations are considered to account for lack of relatedness between maternal sensitivity and attachment outcomes in the current study.



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