Self-Reported Adult Attachment and Observed Parenting Behavior of New Mothers and Fathers

Anna L. Olsavsky, Miranda Berrigan, Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study examined associations between parents’ self-reported adult attachment and observed parenting behavior using a dyadic and family systemic approach. 182 primiparous expectant couples (182 mothers and 182 fathers) reported on their attachment avoidance and anxiety during the third trimester of pregnancy and were observed interacting with their infants at 3 and 9 months postpartum to assess positive and negative parenting behavior. Path analyses revealed that fathers had the lowest observed negative parenting behavior at 3 months postpartum when they were low in anxiety and mothers were also low in anxiety or avoidance. At 9 months postpartum, greater attachment avoidance was associated with lower observed positive parenting behavior and higher observed negative parenting behavior regardless of parent gender. Moreover, when mothers were more anxious and fathers more avoidant, mothers exhibited greater negative parenting behavior; when mothers were more avoidant and fathers more anxious, mothers exhibited less positive parenting behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)821-834
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant CAREER 0746548), with additional support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant 1K-1HD056238), and The Ohio State University’s Institute for Population Research (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Grant R24HD058484) and program in Human Development and Family Science.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • adult attachment
  • fathers
  • observed parenting behavior
  • transition to parenthood


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