Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The purpose of the present study was to investigate the responses of 15-month-old toddlers to unfamiliar peers in the context of toddler-mother attachment. The subjects were twenty-two 15-month-old toddlers, who were observed singly and in pairs under mother-present and mother-absent conditions. Each toddler was involved in a sequence of six 3-minute episodes in an experimental room with toys. Using a counter-balanced procedure, three of the episodes for one toddler overlapped with three of the episodes for the other toddler so that one experimental session consisted of nine episodes. In both the one- toddler and the two-toddler halves of the six-episode sequence for each child, there were mother-present, mother-absent, and mother-reunion episodes. Observations were made through a one-way window and recorded on behavioral coding sheets.
The study showed that unfamiliar 15-month-old toddlers looked at each other significantly more often than they looked at their peer's mother, who was also a stranger to them. However, when the two mothers left the room, the presence of another toddler did not significantly reduce separation crying from what it was when toddlers were left alone.
Many of the behavioral signs of toddler-mother attachment were found, replicating previous studies. Behaviors that were significantly different between preseparation and separation episodes were that the toddlers cried more, looked more at the door, touched the door more frequently, and played less when their mothers were absent. At reunion the toddlers' contact and contact-seeking to the mother was significantly more prevalent than in separation episodes. The toddlers' distance from the mother was less in reunion episodes than in preseparation ones, but not significantly so. Neither was visual regard of the mother significantly greater in one of the reunion periods than it had been in the corresponding preseparation period.
Tire toddlers' greater visual regard of peer strangers than of adult ones was interpreted as the beginning of the process of peer sociability. But this early sociability was viewed as taking place in the context of the toddler-caretaker attachment relationship, since unfamiliar 15-month-olds did not derive comfort from each other when separated from their mothers.
Harms, Robert Arlyn, "The Effect of the Presence of an Unfamiliar Peer on Stranger Preference and Separation from the Mother in 15-Month-Olds" (1976). Theses and Dissertations. 2901.