Building a clinically relevant picture of attachment from case study observations in a parent-infant play group

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Differences in security of attachment are manifested in, and observable in, multiple everyday environments. Thus, a parent-infant play group suggests a potential setting for the assessment of attachment security and how it manifests itself in dyadic affective and behavioral interaction. Such assessments would enhance clinical understanding of the functions served by the relationship, as well as provide information relevant for targeted early intervention. This article describes an assessment process based on building a clinical picture from ongoing observation in a parent-infant weekly play group, and illustrates the process via a clinical case study of interactions observed between four mothers and their toddlers, with a particular focus on the affective qualities observed between mother and baby as these toddlers went about their play in a highly supportive, non-stressful environment. Dyads distinguished by differences in attachment security, as measured by the Deane and Waters (1985) attachment security Q-sort, were also distinguishable in patterns of emotional interchange during play. The important role that the attachment relationship has in helping the infant to organize and apply energy and emerging abilities to the world of play are clearly evident in these case studies. Such information should be useful to clinicians and early interventionists as they assess the meaning of attachment relationships within the contexts of the everyday environments of toddlers and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-170
Number of pages18
JournalChild and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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