Sunday, March 17, 2013

Does Infant Carrying Promote Attachment?

This study was designed to test the hypothesis that increased physical contact between a mother and her infant would create a more secure attachment between the two. In the experiment, one experimental group of mothers and newborns were given soft baby carriers which promoted more physical contact, while the control group of mothers was not. In order to obtain an objective estimate of the amount the soft baby carriers were used, pedometers were sewn inside them. Then when the infants were 13 months old, the Ainsworth Strange Situation was administered. The research team found that in the control group 38% of the babies were securely attached, and conversely, 62% insecurely attached. The majority of the insecure attached babies were anxious-avoidantly attached. In the experimental group 83% were securely attached, and only 17% insecurely attached.

I think a lot of new mothers are unsure of how to best raise their baby. They wonder whether they should give ample physical contact or should they leave it more or less physically separated in the hope that this best fosters independence. Some people will argue that giving too much physical contact to a baby will make it clingy and dependent in the long run. However, this study clearly shows that giving more physical contact to your infant fosters a secure attachment, and a secure attachment has been found to correlate with autonomy and healthy independence.

The research team chose mothers from a low socio-economic background as participants for the study. These mothers were expected to have a range of social risk factors, which are likely to affect the quality of the attachment the mothers are able to form with their babies. They would, therefore, also be the mothers most likely to gain from an intervention aimed at improving the attachment quality. If the mothers were already “good enough,” it would be hard to establish if baby carrying improves the quality of attachment.

Some mothers have not had a good childhood or have been struggling with a difficult pregnancy, maybe even combined with economic worries or a fragile relationship or an absent father. All these factors are known to put the strength and quality of the bond to one’s child at risk. Luckily, it does seem that baby carrying will strengthen that vital bond, as has been shown in this study. And hopefully, this will lead to healthy, secure, and independent children.

No comments: