Motor activity of 12 month-old infants observed during the strange situation procedure: Exploring associations with attachment and temperament

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Central to attachment theory is the notion of the secure-base phenomenon, referring to the use of an attachment figure as a secure-base from which the child can explore. Although exploration might be facilitated by secure attachment, individual differences in children’s need to explore might also exist irrespective of the quality of attachment. This study aimed to examine 12-month-old infants’ motor activity displayed during the Strange Situation Procedure and the extent to which motor activity is related to infants’ temperamental activity level and attachment classification. We expect that during the first episodes (pre-separation) of the SSP, motor activity mainly represents individual differences in activity level, whereas during later episodes (separation and reunion) motor activity represents attachment behavior. This study is part of the longitudinal Generations2 study following first time mothers from pregnancy onwards. Analyses were performed on a subset of the sample (N = 80). We developed a coding system in Noldus The Observer XT software that allows real-time coding of video material, to assess two broad classes of motor activity, displacement behavior and manipulation of toys. Mothers reported on child activity level by filling out the Infant Behavior Questionnaire. Preliminary results showed small to moderate correlations between activity level and displacement behavior during pre-separation and close-to-zero correlations during separation and reunion. No association was found between activity level and manipulation of toys. Significant relationships were found between attachment classification and displacement behavior and manipulation of toys during separation and reunion, but not during pre-separation. During separation and reunion children classified as insecure-avoidant have significantly higher levels of displacement behavior and manipulation of toys compared to infants classified as secure and insecure-resistant. Together these results suggest that motor activity is associated both with temperament and attachment. These analyses will be rerun once a larger sample with coded data becomes available.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2016

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