Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This study was undertaken to relate individual differences along a Mahler-derived dimension of maternal distance-symbiosis to Ainsworth's patterns of infant-mother attachment and to assess cross-sectionally the normative appearance of Mahler's subphase of rapprochement (a restoring of close relations with the mother) in the middle of the second year of life. Sixty mother-toddler pairs, 20 each at the toddler ages of 12, 18, and 24 months evenly divided by sex, were observed in the Ainsworth and Wittig laboratory Strange Situation. Toddlers were classified according to the Ainsworth system into Group A (insecurely attached/ avoidant), Group B (securely attached), and Group C (insecurely attached/resistant). Mothers were assessed by a questionnaire constructed for the study and were also classified by their Strange- Situation and interview behavior into distance-tending (D), normally- oriented (N) , and symbiosis-tending (S) groups. The questionnaire, tested earlier with 56 mothers of toddlers, contained independent scales of distancing (D), normal orientation (N), and symbiosis (S) and D subscales of anger (D^) and aversion to contact (D^v). Results revealed that a low mean on the S scale differentiated mothers of Group-A from mothers of Group-B toddlers and mothers of insecurely attached from mothers of securely attached toddlers. A high mean on the D^v subscale distinguished mothers of insecurely attached from mothers of securely attached toddlers, D from N mothers, and non-N from N mothers. Indicators of rapprochement included reliable increases with toddler age group for looking at the mother in preseparation and the first reunion as well as significant changes with age group in the same episodes for the toddler's involvement of the mother in play. The values for the latter behavior peaked at 18 months, manifesting significant linear and quadratic trends. Separation crying did not change reliably with age group but was subject to an age by sex interaction in the second separation. Sex differences were suggested by this and two other interactions of age with sex on relations with the mother. Results are discussed in relation to current research in infant social development.