Prematurity . org

Preemie Shops

Premature Baby Premature Child

Preemie Books


The Effects of Prematurity on Development: Process Studies: Attachment Literature

Given the differences in interactional patterns noted between premature infants and their mothers, many investigations have anticipated a greater incidence of insecure attachment patterns in premature infant-mother dyads. However, a large body of research has failed to support this expected association (e.g., Goldberg, Perrotta, Minde, & Corter, 1986; Easterbrooks, 1989; van Ijzendoorn, Goldberg, Kroonenberg and Frenkel, 1992). In fact, in a meta-analysis of attachment studies conducted on clinical samples including premature mother-infant dyads, van Ijzendoorn, Goldberg, Kroonenberg and Frenkel (1992) concluded that the premature birth was not likely to affect attachment relationships. However, close scrutiny indicates that the premature infants in their meta-analysis were of relatively low-risk by contemporary standards. That is, the mean birth weight of these infants was above 1500 grams and their gestational age was greater than 30 weeks. Therefore, the sample of studies investigated may not be representative of the range expected in premature populations which may be needed to influence the effects of prematurity on attachment?

Indeed, when premature mother-infant dyads have been examined according to various risk factors, differences in attachment security do emerge. For example when high-risk premature infants are compared to low-risk premature infants, the former is often found to be insecurely attached (Plunkett, Meisels, Stiefel, Pasick & Roloff, 1986; Willie, 1991; Mangelsdorf, Plunkett, Dedrick, Berlin, Meisels, McHale, & Dichtellmiller, 1996). Plunkett et al. (1986) interpreted these findings to suggest that prolonged separation may cause anxiety and depression in mothers and that this emotional state coupled with an infant who is hard to soothe may lead to insecure attachment. This interpretation is consistent with attachment (Bowlby, 1958) and transactional theories (Sameroff & Chandler, 1975), as it suggests that both maternal and infant characteristics contribute to the quality of the dyadic relationship. It should be noted that results from two of these studies suggest a tendency for high-risk premature infants to shift from security to insecurity over time rather than toward security, as is often seen in full-term samples (Plunkett, Meisels, Stiefel, Pasick & Roloff, 1986; Mangelsdorf, Plunkett, Dedrick, Berlin, Meisels, McHale, & Dichtellmiller, 1996). This therefore suggests that the effects of early aberrations in maternal and infant bonding may become more pronounced over time. These findings concur with Greenberg, Carmicheal-Olson and Crnic, (1992) who have documented secure attachment patterns in premature children at age one year, yet found insecure attachment patterns in the same group some four years later. Mangelsdorf et al (1996) interpret similar findings to suggest that delays in mental and physical development of premature children may also extend to delays in the attachment system. Therefore, assessment of attachment patterns in the first year of the premature child's life may not be an accurate assessment of the relationship between premature infants and their mothers.

The process and attachment studies described thus far, support the assumptions of the transactional model first described by Sameroff and Chandler (1975) in that they emphasise how maternal and infant vulnerabilities contribute to the quality of early relationships and out of these mutual influences, development proceeds. In addition, Horowitz (1992) emphasises that in order to progress beyond the results already obtained, research needs to be better informed of the constituent components of the transactional system which may play a pivotal role in some developmental outcomes and not others. According to Magyary Brandt, Hammond, and Barnard, (1992) both mother and infant's attachment processes during the early post-natal period may play a pivotal role in the social and emotional functioning of premature children's later development.

-> Next Page - An Object Relations Perspective
<- Back to - Introduction and Outline of The Effects of Prematurity on the Social and Emotional Development of School Age Children


Prematurity Research

Developmental Research
Preemie Speech and Language
Preemie Teeth
Studies Disproving Catchup
Social/Emotional Behavior

Helen Harrison's Prematurity Observations

Key Research
Prematurity Impacts
Need Better Followup Studies
Bibliography - Long Term Effects

Diagnosis and Outcome
Many Issues are Mild
What is "Normal"?

Special Needs
Mild Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Variability of CP Diagnoses
Risk Factors for CP
More on Constipation

Pre-term Infant Care
Intrauterine Infection and Preterm Delivery

History of Prematurity
History in the Early 1900's
Interview with Dr. William Silverman
Preemie Personality- Dr. Shirley (1939)
Preemie Personality - Dr. Waters (1973)

Book Reviews
Prematurity Books
Author Interviews Special Needs Books

Preemie Stores


Preemie Shopping

Preemie Books
Special Needs

Great books on
preemies and special needs

Preemie Shops
Your preemie deserves the best! Shop in our unique Preemie Stores.

Preemies on Amazon
Amazon has presents for everyone.


Premature Delivery Premature Baby - Surviving the NICU Preemie Parenting Preemie Celebrations Preemie Advocacy Home - Premature Baby - Premature Child Prematurity Books Shopping for Preemie Parents Forum on Prematurity Preemie Child Show and Tell - children's art and stories Preemie Special Needs and Development Preemie Child Mailing LIst - Email support


Author Interviews | Preemie Books

| Premature Birth & Delivery | Surviving the NICU | Preemie Parenting | Advocacy |
| Preemie Celebrations | Preemie Children Show & Tell | Preemie Guest Book |
| Preemie Special Needs & Development | Prematurity Research |
| Preemie Child Discussion List |

All Contents Copyright

Information and Encouragement for your Preemie Baby and Preemie Child

Premature Baby Premature Child