Genetic and Caregiving-Based Contributions to Infant Attachment: Unique Associations With Distress Reactivity and Attachment Security

K. Lee Raby, Dante Cicchetti, Elizabeth A. Carlson, J. J. Cutuli, Michelle M. Englund, Byron Egeland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1016-1023
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Volume23
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01MH40864-09 to Byron Egeland and by National Institute of Mental Health Predoctoral Training Grant T32MH015755-33 to K. Lee Raby.

Keywords

  • emotional development
  • genetics
  • individual differences
  • infant development

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