Linking Employment to Attachment: The Mediating Effects of Maternal Separation Anxiety and Interactive Behavior

Cynthia A. Stifter, Colleen M. Coulehan, Margaret Fish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Scopus citations


This study examined the effects of maternal employment and separation anxiety on maternal interactive behavior and infant attachment. 73 mother‐infant pairs participated in a laboratory free‐play session when infants were 5 and 10 months of age and in the Strange Situation when the infants were 18 months of age. Maternal feelings about being separated from her infant were assessed by questionnaire at 5 months. Employed mothers returned to work before the infants' fifth month, and nonemployed mothers did not work outside the home through their infants' tenth month. Employed mothers who reported high levels of separation anxiety were more likely to exhibit intrusive behaviors at 10 months. While employment was not directly related to attachment, we found infants of high‐anxiety employed mothers to develop anxious‐avoidant attachments. The results suggest that maternal separation anxiety and interactive style may be important mediators between employment and later infant outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1451-1460
Number of pages10
JournalChild development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1993


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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