Fathers, Day Care, and Attachment
Until now, we have focused exclusively on infant-mother attachments. What about fathers, and what does the research tell us about the effect of day care on attachment? We explore these important questions next.
Attachments with Fathers
Summing up the data from 11 studies of attachments with both mothers and fathers, researchers conclude that infants are just as likely to form secure attachments with fathers as with mothers (Fox, Kimmerly, & Schafer, 1991). In fact, among the 710 infants studied, the percentages of secure versus insecure attachments were 65% versus 35% for fathers and 65% versus 35% for mothers. Furthermore, the type of infant attachment tended to be consistent from one parent to the other. That is, infants with secure attachments with their mothers tended also to have secure attachments with their fathers; infants with avoidant attachments with their mothers tended also to have avoidant attachments to their fathers, and so on. It is unclear whether this consistency is due to characteristics in the infant that produce a similar attachment with each parent, or whether both parents respond in similar ways to the infant.
Evidence from a twin study suggests that similarities in father-infant attachment are determined more by the way the twins were fathered than by any genetic predispositions the twins may have shared (Bakermans- Kranenburg, van IJzendoorn, Bokhorst, & Schuengel, 2004). In this case, nurture was more influential than nature. It is clear that the fathering relationship is very important, and that infants do reach beyond their relationships with their mothers. When fathers, older siblings, and other important people provide sensitive care for infants, infants begin to rely on them as a secure base for emotional support.
Day Care and Attachment
Many parents worry that their attachment relationships will suffer if they are not with their infants full time during the early months. Some research conducted during the 1980s suggested that infants who spend more than 20 hours per week in day care centers, family day care homes, or other babysitting arrangements are slightly more likely to be insecurely attached to their mothers than are infants who receive more maternal care or are cared for full time at home (e.g., Belsky & Rovine, 1988). In these studies, although the majority of infants in day care (even those who are in day care more than 20 hours a week) were still securely attached to their mothers, the percentages were significantly lower than for infants with mothers at home. More recently, a large-scale nationwide study found that time spent in day care added to the risk of insecure attachment only when it was combined with mothering that was less sensitive and responsive (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1997, 2001). According to this research, day care in itself does not necessarily jeopardize attachment. The combination of parenting problems and full-time day care can have an impact, however.
Even if day care itself does not disrupt parent-infant attachment, many parents still wish they could spend more time at home during the months after their babies are born. Many parents must return to work sooner than they would like in order to avoid losing their jobs and the paychecks they need to pay the bills. In some countries generous paid parental leave laws let parents spend more time at home with their new babies. To see how the United States compares, see the Social Policy Perspective on page 314-315, "Parental Leave Policies in the United States and Other Nations."
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