Maternal anxiety, maternal sensitivity, and attachment

J. Stevenson-Hinde, R. Chicot, A. Schouldice, C.A. Hinde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has related maternal anxiety to insecurity of attachment. Here we ask whether different aspects of maternal sensitivity mediate this link. From a community sample of intact families with 1-3 children, mothers with 4.5-year-olds were selected for low, medium, or high anxiety levels (N=98). Following Mary Ainsworth’s lead, our maternal sensitivity measures were primarily based on ratings of direct observations. Six sets of measures were obtained: positive maternal style at home (a mean of 4 different ratings); providing a sensitive framework, limit setting, allowing autonomy, criticizing/cutting in (each a mean relative frequency over two laboratory joint tasks); and tension-making (a mean of 3 different ratings in a fear-inducing task). Regression analyses showed firstly that maternal anxiety rather than behavioral inhibition or sex of child was the significant predictor of each maternal sensitivity measure; and secondly that these measures rather than maternal anxiety or sex were the significant predictors of security of attachment. Finally, ANOVA’s indicated which sets of maternal ratings were associated with each pattern of attachment (Avoidant, Secure, Ambivalent, or Controlling).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-636
JournalAttachment & Human Development
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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