Continuity and discontinuity of attachment patterns: a short-term longitudinal pilot study using a sample of late-adopted children and their adoptive mothers.

Research paper by C S CS Pace, G C GC Zavattini, M M D'Alessio

Indexed on: 24 Dec '11Published on: 24 Dec '11Published in: Attachment & human development


This study analysed the attachment patterns of 28 late-adopted children (placed when they were between four and seven years of age) and their adoptive mothers. The change in the children's internal working models (IWMs) within seven to eight months of their placement was evaluated. In addition, we wanted to observe the influence of a secure-autonomous maternal state of mind in facilitating the change in the children's IWMs and the possible associations between the maternal IWMs and the children's IWMs in the adoptive dyads. The separation-reunion procedure (SRP) was used for the late-adopted children in order to assess their attachment behavioural patterns, and the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task (MCAST) was used to evaluate their attachment narrative patterns. The adoptive mothers completed the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) in order to classify their state of mind with regard to attachment. The results showed a significant change in the attachment behavioural patterns of late-adopted children, from insecure to secure (p = .002). Furthermore, the children who presented this change were predominantly placed with secure-autonomous adoptive mothers (p = .047), although the link between the adoptive mothers' representations of their attachment history and their adopted children's completed narratives was not significant. In conclusion, it seems possible to revise the attachment behaviour of late-adopted children but, for about one-third of children, the adverse history will persist at a narrative/representational level.