The attachment system (mother–child interactions)

A problem presented at the UK MMSG Strathclyde 2004.

Presented by:
Dr Jonathan Hunter (Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto)
SA Baigent, A Fitt, D Greenhalgh, JJ Hunter, S McKee, AJ Mulholland, AC Skeldon

Problem Description

The attachment system is an innate evolutionary selected behavioural system present in all mammals that is 'designed' to keep the dependent infant close to their mother until they are sufficiently mature to survive on their own. In humans infant attachment experience is relevant to adult relationship style, and perhaps stress vulnerability and therefore disease.

Over the course of the first 18 months, a baby develops an attachment style. Once a baby is around 18 months this attachment can be measured by observing the mother and child in a scenario called the 'Strange Situation'. In this experiment, the baby is introduced to a sequence of events involving the mother and a stranger, and the response is scored by a panel of observers.

The questions addressed by the study group was how to model the development of a baby's attachment style over the first 18 months of its life, and how the results of the Strange Situation test relate to attachment style.

Study Group Report

Download the full report