Attachment representations and mother-child dialogue

Baiba Barene, Purdue University


With the emerging linguistic competencies of the child, dialogue becomes a regular part of mother-child everyday interactions, and may serve as one of the mechanisms of transmission of attachment in early and middle childhood. The goal of this study was to investigate the hypothesis about the co-constructive nature of children's knowledge of secure base script. Formation of the secure base script is a result of child-caregiver interactions that have been consolidated into a unit of knowledge available for use in attachment related situations. Individual attachment narratives and mother-child co-constructed narratives were collected from 86 mother-child dyads when children were 3.7 years old. Using Structural Equation Modeling, this study tested the relationships between maternal knowledge of secure base script, child knowledge of secure base script, and maternal dialogic co-construction skills, observed as mothers helped their children with narrative construction. Further, it was tested if maternal co-construction skills mediated the relationship between maternal secure base script knowledge and child secure base script knowledge. Confirming the co-constructive nature of children's attachment representations, a significant relationship was found between maternal co-construction skills and child knowledge of secure base script. A trend between maternal access to secure base script and maternal co-construction skills was found, suggesting that maternal attachment representations may be related to the way mothers converse with their children. No significant effects of maternal access to secure base script on child access to secure base script were found when examining the relationship directly and via co-construction skills. Implications of these findings are discussed in the context of specific study characteristics, such as methods of assessment, coding systems, sample composition, and age of children at the time of study.




Posada, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Social psychology|Developmental psychology|Individual & family studies

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