Infant Response to Rejection of Physical Contact by the Mother

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Previously unexamined consequences of the ethological theory of attachment suggest that if an attachment figure rejects close body contact with an infant, the infant is placed in a conflict situation in which aggression, conflict behavior and avoidance are expected outcomes. In previous studies we have shown that a mother's rejection of contact with her infant is, as expected, highly associated with avoidance of the mother in stress (separation and reunion) situations. Here we report that a mother's aversion to tactual contact with the infant is stable over the first year of life, and that it is positively associated with rough handling of the infant. It is not associated with carly differences in infant cuddliness. In each of the three samples examined, the mother's aversion to contact with the infant is found positively associated with infant conflict behavior. A mother's aversion to contact between one week and three months of age is related positively to infant angry mood and acts of aggression between 9 and 12 months of age. The conflict situation created by the physically rejecting attachment figure is comparable to but distinguished from the well-known “double bind.” © 1981, The American Academy of Child Psychiatry. All rights reserved.




Main, M., & Stadtman, J. (1981). Infant Response to Rejection of Physical Contact by the Mother. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 20(2), 292–307.

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