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Parent-Child Relationship/psychological theories: A major advance in both human and animal models of early social experience was the recognition that there was naturally occurring variability in maternal caregiving behavior. In her observations of mothers and their infants in the home environment, Mary Ainsworth developed codes for discriminating between sensitive and insensitive caregiving behavior (Ainsworth et al., 1978)(1).
Infants who experienced sensitive caregiving were subsequently classified as secure in laboratory tests using the Strange Situation paradigm (>Situation/Ainsworth) at 12 and 18 months.
Infants’ security in the Strange Situation, in turn, has predicted aspects of subsequent child adaptation in preschool, childhood, and adolescence (Sroufe et al., 2005)(2). The notion that individual differences in the quality of care received from the mother can have long-term effects on psychosocial outcomes has generally been supported in several major longitudinal studies (Belsky & Fearon, 2002)(3).
A rodent model for studying early maternal care uses naturally occurring variations in maternal behavior over the first eight days after birth (Champagne & Meaney, 2007)(4).
Direct observation of mother-pup interactions in normally-reared animals identified two forms of maternal behavior – those involving Licking/ grooming of pups (LG) and another characterized by arched-back nursing (ABN) in which a mother nurses her pups with her back conspicuously arched. Because the two types of maternal behavior tend to co-occur, mothers could be classified as either High or Low LG-ABN.
The consequences for offspring of differential mothering were established by intergenerational stability of maternal behavior, with mothers who were high on LB-ABN showing similar maternal behavior to their offspring when they subsequently became mothers, and the offsprings’ increased exploratory activity and decreased startle responses as adults (Cameron, Champagne, & Parent, 2005)(5).
Cross-fostering of high LG mothers to rat pups served to rule out genetic transmission of intergenerational effects. Offspring of low LG mothers matched to high LG foster mothers showed high LG maternal behaviors. Early exposure to high LG mothers also has produced effects on subsequent sexual and reproductive behavior of female offspring (Cameron et al., 2005(5); Curley, Champagne, & Bateson, 2008)(6). >Environment/Developmental psychology.
1. Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
2. Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., Egeland, B., & Collins, A. (2005). The development of the person: The Minnesota study of risk and adaptation from birth to adulthood. New York, NY: Guilford Press
3. Belsky, J., & Fearon, R. M. P. (2002). Early attachment security, subsequent maternal sensitivity, and later child development: Does continuity in development depend upon continuity of caregiving? Attachment & Human Development, 4, 361–387.
4. Champagne, F., & Meaney, M. (2007). Transgenerational effects of social environment on variations in maternal care and behavioral response to novelty. Behavioral Neuroscience, 121, 1353–1363.
5. Cameron, N., Champagne, F., & Parent, C. (2005). The programming of individual differences in defensive responses and reproductive strategies in the rat through variations in maternal care. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 29, 843–865
6. Curley, J., Champagne, F., & Bateson, P. (2008). Transgenerational effects of impaired maternal care on behaviour of offspring and grand offspring. Animal Behaviour, 75, 1551–1561
Roger Kobak, “Attachment and Early Social deprivation. Revisiting Harlow’s Monkey Studies”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012