Preschoolers' organization of behavior in interaction with their mothers: Comparison of an attachment setting with a toy clean-up situation

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Daryl Greenfield - Committee Chair


Although attachment is only part of the parent-child relationship, children's interactive strategies with attachment figures may be used in other interpersonal situations, especially those that call for communication and cooperation. In the preschool years, attachment behavior is organized around affect regulation and patterns of negotiation in addition to regulation of proximity to attachment figures. The three patterns of attachment, secure, defended, and coercive, can be characterized based on differences in interpersonal involvement and affect. The present study investigated the relation of preschooler's quality of attachment to these qualitative aspect of behavior and to task focus in a toy clean-up task. It was hypothesized that attachment patterns would correspond to patterns of behavior in the toy clean-up situation. The results showed that quality of attachment was related to interpersonal involvement and positive affect, but not to negative affect or task focus. Most of the secure and many of the defended children, but not the coercive children, matched the predicted patterns of behavior in the clean-up. These findings suggest some aspects of interpersonal strategies apply to interactions across situational context.


Psychology, Developmental

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