Attachment Classifications Among 18-Month-Old Children of Adolescent Mothers | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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January 2002

Attachment Classifications Among 18-Month-Old Children of Adolescent Mothers

Author Affiliations

From the Infant Development Center, Women and Infants' Hospital (Drs Andreozzi and Lester and Ms Brunner); Departments of Pediatrics (Drs Flanagan, Seifer, and Lester) and Psychiatry and Human Behavior (Drs Seifer and Lester), Brown Medical School, Rhode Island Hospital; and Bradley Hospital (Drs Seifer and Lester), Providence, RI.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156(1):20-26. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.1.20

Objectives  To determine (1) patterns of secure vs insecure attachment relationships in infants of adolescent and nonadolescent mothers and (2) if these patterns are mediated by parenting characteristics, including depression, self-esteem, parenting stress, child abuse potential, psychological distress, rating of infant temperament, and the caregiving environment.

Participants  Fifty-one adolescent mothers and their 18-month-old infants were compared with 76 nonadolescent mothers and their 18-month-old infants.

Main Outcome Measures  Infant attachment classifications were assessed via the Ainsworth Strange Situation. Maternal and infant characteristics were obtained through self-report measures.

Results  There were no differences in attachment classification between infants of adolescent mothers and nonadolescent mothers. Secure attachment classification was found in 67% of the infants of adolescent mothers and 62% of the infants of nonadolescent mothers. There were significant differences in the self-reported maternal characteristics. Adolescent mothers reported lower self-esteem (P<.05), more parenting stress (P<.05), more child abuse potential (P<.05), and provided a lower quality of home environment (P<.05) than nonadolescent mothers. Adolescent mothers also rated their infants as having a higher activity level (P<.05) than infants born to nonadolescent mothers. In multivariate analysis, none of these variables or social classes were found to affect attachment classification.

Conclusions  Infants of adolescent and nonadolescent mothers show similar patterns of attachment. Adolescent and nonadolescent mothers show substantial differences in parenting characteristics and in how they rate their infants' temperaments. However, these differences do not seem to impair the infant-mother attachment relationship.