Child-Mother Attachment Security and Child Characteristics as Joint Contributors to Young Children's Coping in a Challenging Situation

Nancy L. Mcelwain, Ashley S. Holland, Jennifer M. Engle, Maria S. Wong, Helen T. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Moderate challenges provide opportunities for young children to develop coping skills, yet little is known about factors related to individual differences in early coping. This study investigated child-mother attachment security (9-point rating) assessed via a modified Strange Situation procedure, child expressive language, and child social fearfulness as contributors to coping responses among 33-month-old children (N=128, 66 girls) following receipt of an empty gift box. Associations between child-mother attachment security and child coping were moderated by child characteristics. As hypothesized, greater attachment security was associated with more action towards the stressor (i.e. vocalizing about the empty box and searching for the missing gift), but only for children high on social fearfulness. Further, greater attachment security was associated with seeking more physical proximity to mothers for children low on expressive language and less physical proximity for children high on expressive language. Lastly, greater attachment security was related to more self-distraction for children with moderate to high expressive language. Results are discussed in terms of child-mother attachment security as a psychological resource constructed over time, which the child may draw upon when confronted with a moderate non-attachment-related stressor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-434
Number of pages21
JournalInfant and Child Development
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Keywords

  • Child-mother attachment
  • Coping
  • Expressive language
  • Temperament
  • Toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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