Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

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Arietta Slade

Committee Members

Susan Coates

Steve Tuber

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This study investigated the relationship between attachment, maternal gender representations of the child formed during pregnancy, and the development of sex-typed play at 28 months in 34 mother-infant pairs. Mothers were interviewed during their third trimester using the Pregnancy Interview (PI), a semi-structured interview that assesses women's representations of their babies and their overall experience of pregnancy, and the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI), which assesses adults' working models of attachment. Maternal gender representations were scored using the Maternal Gender Representation Codes which assess subjects' overall narratives regarding the issue of gender with respect to their children during the Pregnancy Interview. Sex-typed play was assessed when the children were engaged in play alone and with their mothers. Results provide preliminary evidence that maternal gender representations are associated with attachment classifications. In particular, preoccupied women developed more rigid, highly elaborated representations of their children with respect to gender, while securely attached women developed more flexible gender representations. Preoccupied women also developed stronger gender preferences than securely attached women. Rigid, highly elaborated maternal gender representations formed during pregnancy also were associated with the presence of extremely divergent sex-typed play patterns at 28 months with stronger results being found when the children played by themselves. These play patterns reflected a greater imbalance in the expression of same-sex- and cross-sex-typed play than is typical, with play being skewed in either a same-sex typed or a cross-sex-typed direction. Finally, qualitative analyses illustrate the complexity of the relationship between attachment, maternal gender representations and sex-typed play. Two cases are discussed which document how cross-sex-stereotypic play was adopted by two children to repair troubled attachment relationships with their mothers. In each case, the child's play shifts from being predominantly same-sex-typed when playing alone to being predominantly cross-sex-typed when engaged in play with the mother.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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