David Baraga

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Attachment behavior is defined as the diversity of behaviors which promote proximity, contact and communication with the figure or figures to whom the child is attached. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that personality traits of the mother influence the manner in which she characteristically relates to her child. These traits, therefore, influence the quality of attachment of the child.

To accomplish this task, thirty-six mothers and their one- year-old children participated in a controlled laboratory situation consisting of eight episodes in which the child alternately played with the mother, with, a stranger, and alone. Observations were made of the manner in which the mother related to her child, both before and following separation according to three categories of interaction play interaction, social/verbal interaction and physical contact.

Indices of the personality traits of nurturance, dominance, and dependence/independence for each mother were obtained through the administration of the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule.

Results indicated that only in two areas were there significant differences between the manner in which a mother responds to her child in a non-stress situation compared to her responses when the child is in stress. The mother gave more comfort responses both verbally and physically to her child when the child was in a stressful situation.

In all but one instance, no evidence was found that degree of nurturance, dominance or dependence/independence differentiates maternal behaviors towards children. The only significant relationship established was between nurturance and proximity vocalizations. Low nurturant mothers made more proximity-inviting statements to their children than medium or high nurturant mothers.

Methodological considerations were discussed, particularly the limitations of rating maternal behaviors in a laboratory situation.