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Effects of family risk on early attachment security: Gender-specific susceptibility and mediation by parenting behavior

  • Growing up in high-risk environments is detrimental to children’s development of attachment security. Parenting behavior is hypothesized to be the mechanism through which risks exert their influence. However, risk influences can vary between individuals by gender. Aim of this study was to explore specific pathways of family risk on early attachment security and additionally examine the transmission via parenting behavior. The sample consisted of 197 children and their primary caregivers. Children’s age ranged between 10 and 21 months (M = 15.25, SD = 3.59). Data assessment included 21 distal and proximal family risk factors, children’s attachment security, and parental responsivity and supportive presence. Whereas distal risk factors had an adverse effect only on girls’ attachment security, proximal risks negatively affected only boys’ attachment security. Additionally, patterns of risk factors occurring in our sample were analyzed using an exploratory principal component analysis. Regardless of the child’s gender, a low socio-economic status was negatively related to attachment security of all children. Migration and crowding and a high emotional load of the primary caregiver both negatively predicted girls’ but not boys’ attachment security. However, the attachment security of boys was affected by a negative family climate. Most of the adverse risk effects on attachment security were mediated by parental responsivity and supportive presence so that the transmission of risk occurs through parenting behavior. Results revealed a different susceptibility of family risks for girls and boys. The consideration of a gender-sensitive approach in developmental psychopathology and interventions of developmental child welfare services is recommended.

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Author:Jennifer GerlachORCiD, Judith M. FößelORCiD, Marc VierhausORCiD, Alexandra SannORCiD, Andreas EickhorstORCiDGND, Peter ZimmermannORCiD, Gottfried SpanglerORCiD
DOI original:https://doi.org/10.1177/25161032211065459
Parent Title (English):Developmental Child Welfare
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2022
Publishing Institution:Hochschule Hannover
Release Date:2022/03/28
Tag:attachment; gender effects; infancy; risk; sensitivity; toddlerhood
GND Keyword:Bindungsfähigkeit; Sensibilität; Familie; Gefahr; Kleinkind; Geschlechtsunterschied
First Page:20
Last Page:40
Institutes:Fakultät V - Diakonie, Gesundheit und Soziales
DDC classes:150 Psychologie
370 Erziehung, Schul- und Bildungswesen
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International