Maternal Sensitivity During Infancy and Subsequent Life Events Relate to Attachment Representation at Early Adulthood

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A prospective longitudinal research study of 86 prematurely born children from birth to age 18 years provided empirical evidence for continuity from infancy experience to representations of attachment at age 18 years. Young adults whose representation of attachment was dismissing had been objectively observed during infancy, 16–17 years earlier, to receive less sensitive maternal care than those infants who were later judged at early adulthood to have secure or preoccupied representations. Infancy experience alone did not differentiate young adults with secure representations from those with preoccupied representations. Rather, adverse life events through age 12, particularly parental divorce, reduced the likelihood of secure representations and increased the likelihood of preoccupied representations. The absence of adverse life events did not increase the likelihood of security for those who had not experienced early sensitive caregiving.

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