Patterns of individual adaptation across childhood

Joan Urban, Elizabeth Carlson, Byron Egeland, L. Alan Sroufe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Continuity in individual patterns of adaptation and maladaptation was examined across the years from infancy to preadolescence. Forty-seven preadolescent subjects from a 15-year longitudinal study of children at risk for developmental problems participated. Subjects were intensively observed in a 4-week summer daycamp at age 10. Children were then rated on scales of agency, social skill, dependency, positive and negative affect, and ranked on emotional health. In addition, Q-sorts were performed to obtain an overall description of the child's personality, and observations were made of child-adult interactions. Significant differences were found between secure and insecure attachment groups on molar measures of adaptation including social competence and ego resiliency. Children with anxious histories were also rated higher on dependency and were found to be more frequently involved in interactions with adults than children with secure histories. In addition, differences were found in the patterns of adaptation exhibited by children with the two types of anxious attachment history. Children with resistant histories were found to be more often the recipients of adult-initiated contact, specifically support and nurturance, than were children with avoidant attachment histories. Comparison of overall personality style through correlations of composite counselor Q-sorts identified children with secure and resistant attachment histories as most like other children with the same attachment history. Results for avoidant children did not achieve significance. Patterns of contemporary child behavior revealed through counselor Q-sorts were also found to be related to theoretically derived predictions from patterns observed in infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-460
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1991

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