Father Interaction and Separation Protest.

Publication Year: 
Personal Author: 
Spelke, E., Zelazo, P., Kagan, J., Kotelchuck, M.
Type of Resource: 
Journal Article
Page Count: 

Infant protest following separation from the mother has been used as a partial index of the strength of the mother-infant bond, in which case it is assumed that the strength of the bond covaries with the amount of social interaction. In this study, 36 1-year-old middle-class children with fathers who spent differing amounts of time with them at home were observed in two experimental contexts separated by 2 weeks. In the first, each infant was shown six to eight repetitions of three different nonsocial stimuli followed by a change in the stimulus. In the second, each infant experienced the unannounced entrances and departures of his mother, father, and a female stranger. The infants who were the most upset when alone with the stranger came from low-father-interaction families and became bored most rapidly with nonsocial stimuli. The infants who were the least fearful with the stranger came from high-father-interaction families and displayed the greatest interest in and smiling to the inanimate stimuli. The authors argue that crying or protest to separation is a complex phenomenon influenced by discrepancy, temperament, and level of cognitive development and is not a sensitive index of the intensity of the child's emotional bond to his parent. (Author abstract modified)