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Disentangled Attachment and Attachment Parenting

Posted Feb 28 2011 11:42am
Last week two diligent readers alerted me to the same article ostensibly about Attachment Parenting, a  blog post by a mommy blogger on The Stir over at who'd written about a recent study in the news.  We'll get to it in a moment but first I've been wanting to feature all of your catches in the media.  So now every Monday I'm going to post your finds, yes, the exaggerations, biased articles, and other assorted inaccuracies from the world of pedia media. 

So what sent two readers into action last week?  First Jen then Lori, so moved she even emailed the author of research to request a copy of the study! You go, girlfriend.  Apparently the author, Jessica Salvatore, had been wondering how the information was being "disseminated" to the public. 

Hmmm.  Let's see...
Thank goodness the LA Times did a good job sussing out the substance of the study.

Your mother may be to blame for your relationship woes (though choosing a better mate could improve matters)
"The strength of the bond you formed with Mom during the first two years of life strongly affects how efficiently you and your partner will move beyond a fight and join forces to accomplish mutual goals, a new study finds."
Well done.  But somehow between the LA Times and The Stir the study got misconstrued. 

How?  Well the study was about attachment (i.e. infant-mother bonding) but not Attachment Parenting.  Most people hear "attachment" and think of Attachment Parenting and the whole Dr. Sears/co-sleeping/baby-wearing crowd.  As did the mommy blogger above, an attachment parenting devotee. 

But psych majors think of infant bonding and Ainsworth's Attachment Styles, a scheme outlining 3 different relationship styles infants exhibit when interacting with their caregivers (secure, resistant, avoidant).  Ainsworth's scheme has been around since the 70s and still pops up in recent studies like the one that prompted the above impassioned blog post.
Here's the actual study published in Psychological Science
Recovering From Conflict in Romantic Relationships : A Developmental Perspective

Basically, researcher Jessica Salvatore and her team trolled data from a big longitudinal study that tracked children from birth into adulthood, the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation.  The current study showed babies who were "securely attached" to their mothers fared better with their romantic partners some twenty-years later.  It's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the basic gist.  
It had nothing to do with Dr. Sears or the families attached at the hip or breast despite whatever claims the attachment doc may make about the bond between momma and baby and their future health and psyches. 
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