Maternity leave, mother-child interactions, and attachment

Raquel Plotka, Fordham University

Abstract

Although over 70% of American mothers are part of the workforce, the maternity leave policy in the United States is of twelve unpaid weeks, and only covers about half of the workforce. The amount of time a mother is able to spend with her infant before she negotiates separation and re-entry to work is expected to play a role in the way a mother learns to read her infant's cues and the attachment relationship is formed. This study proposed that the length of maternity leave would affect the levels of maternal depression symtomatology, which would affect the quality of mother-child interactions, affecting infant attachment security. Data for 3,850 working mothers and their infants from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) sample were analyzed. The results of a path analysis show that controlling for SES, the length of maternity leave had a significant effect on the quality of mother-child interactions measured when infants were nine months, and that the quality of mother-child interactions mediated the relationship between the length of maternity leave and the levels of attachment security, observed when children were 24 months. Maternal depression was not found to play a significant role in the relationship between length of maternity leave and attachment security. When comparing married and single mothers, married mothers show a similar pattern to the full sample. In contrast, for single mothers, length of maternity leave was not related to the quality of mother-child interactions and attachment, yet SES predicted quality of mother-child interactions, and the quality of mother-child interactions mediated the relationship between SES and attachment security. These results have implications for the development of family policies that are sensitive to the needs of infants and mothers in the first months of life.^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology|Education, Early Childhood|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, General|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Raquel Plotka, "Maternity leave, mother-child interactions, and attachment" (January 1, 2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3512306.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3512306

Share

COinS