Early child care experiences and attachment representations at age 18 years: Evidence from the NICHD study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

Theodore E.A. Waters, Sophia W. Magro, Jude Alhajeri, Rui Yang, Ashley Groh, John D. Haltigan, Ashley A. Holland, Ryan D. Steele, Kelly K. Bost, Margaret T. Owen, Brian E. Vaughn, Cathryn Booth-LaForce, Glenn I. Roisman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The role of early child care experiences on the development of the mother-child attachment relationship has been studied extensively. However, no prospective studies of early child care have addressed how these experiences might be reflected in the content of attachment representations during adolescence and beyond. The goal of this study was to estimate relatively precise associations between child care quality, child care quantity, and type of care in the first 54 months of life and the content of adolescents' attachment representations around age 18 years ( N = 857; 51% female; 78% White, non-Hispanic; M income-to-needs ratio = 4.13), leveraging data from the longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). We identified a small positive association between the observed quality of early child care (but not quantity or type of care) and secure attachment states of mind as measured by the Adult Attachment Interview (but not the Attachment Script Assessment) at age 18 years that was robust to demographic covariates and observations of maternal and paternal sensitivity during childhood. We observed no significant interactions among child care variables. Associations between early child care experiences and indicators of adolescent attachment were likewise not moderated by maternal sensitivity from infancy to mid-adolescence or by maternal reports of child temperament in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-556
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume57
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • Adult Attachment Interview
  • attachment
  • child care
  • differential susceptibility
  • secure base script

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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