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Dev Psychopathol. 2009 Spring;21(2):355-72. doi: 10.1017/S0954579409000376.

Socially indiscriminate attachment behavior in the Strange Situation: convergent and discriminant validity in relation to caregiving risk, later behavior problems, and attachment insecurity.

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Harvard Medical School, Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Socially indiscriminate attachment behavior has been repeatedly observed among institutionally reared children. Socially indiscriminate behavior has also been associated with aggression and hyperactivity. However, available data rely heavily on caregiver report of indiscriminate behavior. In addition, few studies have been conducted with samples of home-reared infants exposed to inadequate care. The current study aimed to develop a reliable laboratory measure of socially indiscriminate forms of attachment behavior based on direct observation and to validate the measure against assessments of early care and later behavior problems among home-reared infants. Strange Situation episodes of 75 socially at-risk mother-infant dyads were coded for infant indiscriminate attachment behavior on the newly developed Rating for Infant-Stranger Engagement. After controlling for infant insecure-organized and disorganized behavior in all analyses, extent of infant-stranger engagement at 18 months was significantly related to serious caregiving risk (maltreatment or maternal psychiatric hospitalization), observed quality of disrupted maternal affective communication, and aggressive and hyperactive behavior problems at age 5. Results are discussed in relation to the convergent and discriminant validity of the new measure and to the potential utility of a standardized observational measure of indiscriminate attachment behavior. Further validation is needed in relation to caregiver report measures of indiscriminate behavior.

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