Anne Krupka

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Two related studies of mother-infant interactions during the first year were carried out. In Study 1, the process of attachment was examined from a developmental psychopathology perspective. In Study 2, an intervention program based on attachment theory was evaluated. The findings revealed a possible pathway to insecure attachment relationships, and provided a rationale for theory-based early prevention.;Study 1 was cross-sectional and longitudinal with 68 high-risk mother-infant dyads (mean maternal age, 17.9 years). A multimethod approach including home observations, questionnaires, interviews, and coding of key episodes, was used to measure cognitive and socioemotional characteristics of the infants and different aspects of maternal interactive behaviour, at three developmental periods, in order to assess the quality of mother-infant interactions and to identify precursors to disordered functioning. Attachment relationships were assessed using the Strange Situation procedure. Data were collected on 39 dyads with 13-month-old infants, 54 dyads with 6-month-old infants, and 22 dyads with 3-month-old infants. Within the cross-sectional groups, data were available from two longitudinal samples: 22 dyads seen at 3 and 6 months, and 25 dyads seen at 6 and 13 months.;Results showed that maternal sensitivity declined over the first year and 63% of the babies were insecurely attached at 13 months. Higher levels of sensitivity were associated with higher scores on stage-salient developmental tasks. Regression analyses revealed that sensitivity contributed to variability in attachment security; quality of social and emotional stimulation in the home, to variability in mental development; and quality of the mother's communication, to variability in language development. These findings suggest that sub-optimal mother-infant interactions may lead to difficulties in development since mastery of developmental issues at an earlier stage lays the foundation for subsequent competence.;In Study 2, 45 dyads from the cross-sectional sample with 6-month-olds were randomly assigned to intervention (N = 22) and comparison (N = 23) groups. Data were collected at 6 and 13 months, as in Study 1. In between, intervention group mothers received bi-weekly training sessions aimed at improving mother-infant interactions through play.;At 13 months, results showed the groups differed in maternal sensitivity. Sensitivity in the intervention group increased over the 7-month period whereas sensitivity in the comparison group decreased. Intervention infants had higher attachment-security scores (Attachment Behaviour Q-sort), than comparison infants, and a higher proportion were classified as securely attached (Strange Situation).



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