A study of one aspect of attachment behavior: home reared versus day care infants' reaction to strangers

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The purpose of this study was to ascertain if day care significantly alters the child's propensity toward the formation and maintenance of attachment bonds towards its mother. It was maintained that the variable of day care in the life of an infant would cause disruption to his attachment to his mother sufficient to elicit attachment behaviors different than those of his counterpart home reared infant when they were placed in a strage environment. This assertion was based on the ethological-evolutionists theory which maintains that the rearing environment cannot alter significantly from that environment of evolutionary adaptiveness if a secure mother-child attachment is to be formed.

The observation checklist, designed by Morgan and Ricciuti was employed to measure the reactions of eight day care and eight home reared infants, ten to eighteen months, to an adult male and an adult female stranger. The checklist was composed of two behavioral scales - facial expression and motor activity - to rate the infant's reactions to the strangers. A movie camera was used to record the testing to insure the reliability of the observations.

No significant difference occurred between the day care infants' responses and the home reared infants' responses. Daily separation for these day care infants, therefore, was not a sufficient enough disruption in the attachment process to cause the exhibiting of different attachment behaviors than their counterpart home reared infants.