Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Priscilla N. White

Committee Members

Harvey Kaufman, Ruth Highberger, Roy Beauchene


The purpose of this study was to attempt to establish more precisely the sensitive period for mother-infant attachment, by comparing maternal behaviors of mothers who had immediate contact with their newborns to mothers whose contact with their infants was delayed. A secondary purpose was to determine whether maternal attachment behaviors occurred more frequently for those mothers whose infants were awake and alert.

Fourteen caucasian Americans and one oriental American primigravid women and their healthy neonates were studied. The method used to determine the effects of time of initial significant contact and infant state was observation of video-taped interaction of three differing times of contact groups by a naive observer. Group I was Immediate Contact, Group II was Early Delay (1 1/2 hours delay) and Group III was Control (6-10 hour s delay). The subjects were video-taped during initial significant interaction for one hour and again 24 to 36 hours post-delivery for one hour during a scheduled feeding. Bar graphs of the frequency of occurrence of bonding behaviors and frequency of occurrence of state 4 were used to visualize which of the three groups exhibited the most bonding behaviors, and the most state 4 of infant arousal during the second session of taping. The categories of behavior consisted of en face holding, fondling, smiling, proximity, prolonged gazing and talking to the neonates. Interrater reliability was 97.7%. Evidence from the data in this study supports the theory that early extended contact does facilitate bonding. In the analysis Group II exhibited the most bonding behaviors, Group I had the second largest number and Group III had a decrease in behaviors at the second taping. For Groups I and II, there is a relationship between the amount of time infants are in state 4 of infant arousal and the bonding behaviors exhibited by the mother when the data is examined for each subject in the group. Vast intrasubject variation within groups was not noted except with subject 3, Group I on two categories of behaviors, i.e., en face and talking. The frequency of interruptions were scored across groups and within subjects. Group I, Session I had nearly three times the number of interruptions as occurred in Groups II and III. Group II had the least number of interruptions overall.

The results indicate that early extended contact is import ant to the development of attachment between mother and infant but that immediate extended contact may not be critical. An intervening variable in the development of bonding when extended contact occurs immediately after delivery is frequency of interruption of the mothers. Age of mother at delivery may also be a variable to be considered. Infants are in state 4, the quiet alert state for at least one hour after delivery and some infant s are in state 4 for longer than one hour post-delivery. Skin-to-skin contact seems to enhance bonding. The "sensitive period" for bonding may extend beyond two hours post-delivery.

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