Pregnancy Wantedness and Child Attachment Security: Is There a Relationship?
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Objectives Few studies examine the consequences of unwanted pregnancy on child development, and most of those that do, use measures of pregnancy intention. Here we use measures of pregnancy wantedness, together with measures of maternal motivation, to examine the potential effect of wantedness on the child’s attachment relationship with its mother. Methods Using data collected from 78 primiparous Black women who had applied for an Early Head Start program in a Midwestern city and who had completed a pregnancy acceptance questionnaire, we created four measures: Pregnancy Wantedness, Positive Maternal Motivation, Negative Maternal Motivation, and Social Reinforcement for the pregnancy. Each child had been assessed at about 11 months of age for Difficult Temperament and at about 14 months of age for Attachment Security. We then tested both regression and linear structural equation models in order to predict the child’s attachment security with the remaining variables. Results Pregnancy Wantedness is predicted with an R2 of .198 by Negative Maternal Motivation and Social Reinforcement but does not predict Attachment Security, which is predicted with an R2 of .375 by Positive Maternal Motivation, Negative Maternal Motivation, and Difficult Temperament. Conclusions Our analyses indicate that in a multivariate context there is no relationship between the wantedness of a pregnancy and the subsequent attachment security of the child for this sample of low-income Black primiparous mothers. This finding is related to some conceptual and measurement issues of pregnancy wantedness, the irrelevance of some aspects of wantedness to parent–child interaction, and the powerful effect of maternal motivations on child attachment security.
KeywordsPregnancy wantedness Maternal motivation Attachment security Low-income Early head start
The authors thank Kathy Thornburg, Jean Ispa, and Mark Fine for permission to use data collected as part of their independent research with one of 17 programs participating in the national Early Head Start evaluation. The evaluation was conducted by the Early Head Start Research Consortium, which consisted of representatives from 17 programs, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and the Administration for Children and Families, DHHS.
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