Family, Child, Adolescent Health (Includes Maternal & Child Health)
African American Teen Mothers’ Attachment Style and Child Behavioral Outcomes
(School of Public Health (UMD) Family Science Doctoral Student)
Insecure attachment is identified as a risk factor for a number of negative outcomes. Despite indications that adolescent mothers have more insecure attachment styles than their adult counterparts (Figueiredo et al., 2006), few studies focus on the attachment style and parenting practices of teenage mothers. Structured interviews with a sample of African American teen mothers were conducted at baseline/enrollment (n=150), 12 months (n=124), and 24 months (n=108). At each time point, mothers completed a self-report questionnaire which included, among others, measures of the mother's attachment style and father involvement. Child behavioral outcomes were measured with a maternal report of the Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (ITSEA) (Briggs-Gowan & Carter, 1988). Preliminary bivariate analyses at 12 months indicate that moms' anxious attachment style positively correlated with child internalizing behaviors (r = .189, p < .05) and dysregulation (r = .197, p < .05); and negatively correlated with child social relatedness (r = -.203, p < .05). At 24 months, mothers' anxious attachment style positively correlated with child internalizing behaviors (r = .311, p < .01), maladaptive behaviors (r = .394, p < .01), and dysregulation (r = .309, p < .05). 12-month analyses also revealed that concurrent father engagement negatively correlated with child externalizing behaviors (r = -.196, p < .05) and dysregulation, (r = -.279, p < .01); and positively correlated with peer relations (r = .255, p < .01). Future analyses will explore the extent to which father engagement might buffer or moderate the effects of maternal attachment style on child behavior and identify mediating factors to the negative consequences of an anxious attachment on child behavioral outcomes. These findings suggest the need for prevention and intervention strategies designed to support positive parenting practices for teen mothers with anxious attachment styles.