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Attach Hum Dev. 2019 Dec;21(6):597-615. doi: 10.1080/14616734.2018.1492003. Epub 2018 Jul 4.

Parents' prenatal joint attachment representations and early caregiving: the indirect role of prenatal marital affect.

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The Department of Human Development & Family Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin , Austin , TX , USA.


This research examined couples' marital affect as a mediator between the couples' combined attachment representations (assessed prenatally) and each of their caregiving quality at 8 months postpartum. We followed 125 couples pregnant with their first child over the transition to parenthood. Prenatally, the Adult Attachment Interview was administered and marital interactions were observed. Parents were categorized in joint attachment pairs: secure/secure, secure mother/insecure father, secure father/insecure mother, and insecure/insecure. Caregiving in dyadic parent-infant interactions was observed at home, 8 months postpartum. Results indicated the secure/secure pairing displayed the most positive marital affect overall and predicted higher sensitivity in both mothers and fathers compared to parents in secure mother/insecure father pairs. Indirect effects indicate marital affect mediated the relations between joint attachment pairs and caregiving. Findings suggest that joint attachment pairs relate to prenatal marital quality, which in turn spills over to predict each parent's later caregiving quality.


Attachment; hostility; infancy; joint attachment; sensitivity; transition to parenthood

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