Research in attachment has been valuable in helping us understand the critical and invaluable bond that develops between Individuals. However, attachment research is limited in one important way: the almost exclusive focus on samples of primary caregiving mothers and their children, leading to the assumption that characteristics defining the mother-child relationship, such as sensitive caregiving and talk about the past, are most important for attachment. However, recent studies indicate that whereas mother-child sensitive caregiving and reminiscing are related to the quality of children's attachment (Laible, 2004), it is father-child quality of play that relates more strongly to children's attachment (Grossmann et al., 2002). Yet, research has yet to examine reminiscing and play in relation to attachment in the same parents simultaneously. Studies suggest that children who are securely attached to both their parents fare emotionally and psychologically better than children who are only securely attached to one parent (see Thompson, 1999). Thus, it is important to understand attachment in relation to both mother and father. The primary objective of this research is to understand the different styles of mother-child and father-child interactions through reminiscing and play, and how these differences relate to children's attachment. We will first compare parent-child reminiscing in mothers and fathers, then parent-child quality of play in mothers and fathers, and finally examine relations between parent-child reminiscing and attachment, and parent-child play and attachment. Fifty mother-child and father-child pairs of 4-year old children, half girls, recruited from the Emory Child Study Center database will be asked to reminisce together about past emotional experiences (sad, conflict with parent and peer, and happy) and past play experiences (special outing and last trip to playground). Dyads will also be asked to engage in a free play task Involving random toys. Attachment will be assessed using the age-appropriate MacArthur Story Stem Battery. It is hypothesized that maternal reminiscing will be more elaborative than paternal reminiscing, father-child play will be more challenging than mother-child play, and maternal reminiscing but not paternal reminiscing, and father-child play but not mother-child play will be related to the quality of attachment in children.

Public Health Relevance

Studies have linked children's secure attachment to parents to many areas of developmental outcomes, including academic achievement, the healthy formation of later social relationships, emotional, and psychological well-being, later parenting abilities, and numerous other outcome variables. It is thus important to understand the relative contribution of each parent to their child's quality of attachment, as this may have implications for child outcomes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-K (29))
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Esposito, Layla E
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Emory University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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