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Genetic and caregiving-based contributions to infant attachment: unique associations with distress reactivity and attachment security.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Psychological science
Publication Date
Volume
23
Issue
9
Pages
1016–1023
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1177/0956797612438265
PMID: 22829464
Source
Medline

Abstract

In the longitudinal study reported here, we examined genetic and caregiving-based contributions to individual differences in infant attachment classifications. For 154 mother-infant pairs, we rated mothers' responsiveness to their 6-month-old infants during naturalistic interactions and classified infants' attachment organization at 12 and 18 months using the Strange Situation procedure. These infants were later genotyped with respect to the serotonin-transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR). Maternal responsiveness uniquely predicted infants' attachment security. Infants' 5-HTTLPR variation uniquely predicted their subtype of attachment security at 12 months and their subtype of attachment insecurity at 12 and 18 months. The short allele for 5-HTTLPR was associated with attachment classifications characterized by higher emotional distress. These findings suggest that 5-HTTLPR variation contributes to infants' emotional reactivity and that the degree to which caregivers are responsive influences how effectively infants use their caregivers for emotion regulation. Theoretical implications for the study of genetic and caregiving influences are discussed.

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