This paper provides an in-depth look at the findings of an Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) with a toddler’s parents in combination with an intricate observation of the same child. Throughout the course of this paper, it is interesting for the reader to compare and contrast the strong Chinese culture at play within this family to that of their own heritage. The observation of the child was naturalistic meaning there was no contact or attempt to alter the activities by the observer and it lasted thirty-minutes with each minute’s findings noted separately on the enclosed table.
The AAI consisted of eighteen questions which are intended to provide a sense of understanding of the parent’s experience with their own mother and father while when used with the observation of the child can help to offer a clearer picture of their parenting. There are three definitions of each, parents and children, which can be used to categorize them. These include for the child: secure, insecure-ambivalent, and insecure-avoidant; and for adults: secure-autonomous, dismissing, and preoccupied.
The supporting statements that categorize each of these definitions have been carefully considered in determining which rightfully defines the parents and child in this particular case. Commentary Section During the thirty-minutes that the infant, Kevin, was being naturalistically observed in his parents’ home, a vast majority of his activity revolved around self-stimulation with toy cars with very little interaction with his mother who was also present.
Of the three categorizations for an infant—secure, insecure-ambivalent, and insecure-avoidant—I would have to say, based on the short amount of time spent with him, that Kevin showed more signs of being a secure child. This conclusion comes from monitoring his activity and interactivity with his mother in combination with things that were said and his mannerisms. The observation began with Kevin’s mother introducing three toy cars of differing sizes making the young boy incredibly excited.
She obviously brought the toys in order to make the child happy, which shows that she is caring. Kevin was unable to verbally communicate clearly. However, the noises that he did make seemed to be joyful and very animated, mostly “ya, ya. ” Initially, Kevin showed slight hesitation in his ability to play with the toy car and his mother, upon instantly recognizing this, got up from the sofa and selected a car to demonstrate to him a fun way to use the toy.
In doing so, to further substantiate my feeling that he is a secure child, he made no fuss at her grabbing a toy and was perfectly happy with her showing him what to do. Some children in this situation may have thrown a tantrum feeling insecure as though the parent was going to take the toys away or control the activity in some way. About fifteen minutes or so into the observation Kevin begins knocking on the floor with the cars. His mother informs him of the elderly lady living below the apartment and how she does not like when he makes such loud noises.
Ignoring the lengthy explanation he continues to knock out of lack of comprehension. His mother stands and once Kevin sees that her facial expression is one of displeasure he immediately stops knocking as the visual is something that he is able to recognize. As if the child is checking to see whether or not his mother is terribly upset, he goes to her clutching all three of the toy cars against his chest and says “ma, ma. ” She responds with a smile and a “yes, honey?
” He instantly giggles as he realizes that he is not in trouble but was merely scorned for his action at the time. Seeing as how he went to his mother right after the minor incident shows me that he is comfortable enough with her to run back to her immediately after she scolds him. Their relationship appears to be one of happiness and understanding for one another’s needs and wants. Kevin’s mother was born and raised in Xi’an, which is the capital city of Shanxi province located in northwest China.
When she was younger, she explains that both of her parents worked full-time, her mother as an accountant and her father for the Chinese government. She was not the only child; she also had a sister who is two years her junior. She graduated from the Xi’an Institute of Foreign Language and came to the United States to attain her MBA when she was twenty-three years old. She describes her parents as being extremely busy throughout most of her childhood as far back as she is able to remember, but she does not see it as being a problem with their relationship.
She describes her mother as the kind of person she would like Kevin to think of her as when he is older: intimate, warm, casual, relaxing, and caring. Every free minute that she had available was spent with her and her sister. Based upon the way that Kevin has responded to his mother’s discipline throughout the course of the observation, it seems as though he does not suffer from what psychologist Kagan refers to as behavioral inhibition, which often leads to anxiety in later years.
In his research, he has acknowledged the fact that per attachment theory, an infant, in this case Kevin, will become bonded to his mother or whoever provides care to him on a daily basis within the first year. It is, though, the “individual differences in the secure versus insecure quality of attachments [that] have been observed, resulting from differences in the caregiver’s availability and responsiveness to the infant and the degree of reciprocity between the infant and the caregiver” (Shamir-Essakow, Ungerer, and Rapee, 2005).
Kevin’s mother has vowed to take traumatizing experiences of her past and avoid putting her child through them so that he can develop into a more secure toddler and eventually adult. One of the questions asked of Kevin’s mother during the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) was about a time that she remembers being separated from her mother, whom she stated she was closest to growing up. She told me of a time when her mother went away for business when she was almost seven years old.
She and her sister waited outside everyday while their mother was away, hoping that she would return soon. Finally, when she did come back she cooked a large meal for the entire family as a way to make up for her absence. Seeing as how this is something that left a lasting impression on her, it seems that she displayed some separation anxiety while her mother was away, but since her mother returned rather than abandoning her it is highly likely that any future trips caused her and her sister far less stress.
Knowing how her mother leaving negatively affected her and her sister at such a young age it is probably unlikely that she will accept any requests for leaving Kevin for an extended period of time, at least until he is old enough to understand that she will be coming home. Although he does seem secure overall, he did show great affection toward his mother and it is apparent that she would be greatly missed should she leave. As far as her disciplinarian responsibilities with Kevin, she takes cues from her parents. In the interview, she stated that her parents were never threatening whether it was in a joking or serious manner.
Yet, she mentioned that her confidence and self-esteem levels are lower than she would like and attributes that aspect of her adult life to the lack of compliments and praise received by her parents as a child. During my observation, when Kevin repeatedly knocked the cars onto the floor, his mother was stern but not condescending or threatening whatsoever. She simply gave him a look to let him know that she was not happy with his present behavior and he stopped out of an obvious subconscious respect for his mother’s wishes.
This is an insecurity that she had as a child that she is trying not to pass down to Kevin. By communicating with him and interacting with him she is definitely not displaying characteristics of a parent who would be considered preoccupied or dismissing. In Mahler’s object-relational theory of child separation-individuation, he explored this sort of relationship between parents and their children and looked further down the road to disclose the affects it would have on them in adolescence.
From his work on the subject, others have determined that it is ultimately the way that an individual is able to learn how to balance “closeness and distance in interpersonal relationships appears to have implications for a host of adjustment and psychosocial outcomes, including self-esteem, quality of family relationships, success in peer relationships, and level of depression and anxiety” (Holmbeck and Leake, 1999). These are all aspects of developmental life that can be either negatively or positively affected at early stages in Kevin’s life should his mother do too much to avoid a natural separation.
It is difficult to balance and control actions in parenting so that a child grows up to be an independent, self-sufficient adult who is able to recognize and pass on similar traits to their children and so on. There is no doubt that a parent who is constantly dismissing their child or is clearly preoccupied a majority of the time will have negative effects on their child at some point later on in their life. This can be seen in the way that Kevin’s mother’s parents dealt with her in certain situations. Granted, after returning from the business trip she made up for her absence in the eyes of her children, an underlying cut was perhaps made.
Furthermore, the lack of compliments and praise has obviously made an impression on her into adulthood. Young people are very perceptive, much more than adults give them credit for. Though their actions may not reveal the hurt and slight damage that is being caused, in the long run it may be apparent and those actions blamed after-the-fact. Kevin’s mother has taken these deficiencies and altered them to suit her desires as a parent. Based on her experiences, she has come to realize that her child needs as much physical contact as possible; including kissing, hugging, and just being held.
However, the difficulty comes in balance, if Kevin is coddled too much it may also negatively affect him later in life making him into an extremely dependent adult who constantly craves attention and lacks the self-sufficiency to handle grown up problems on his own. However, praise comes with little consequences as long as discipline is fairly and consistently provided. She has come to realize that praising Kevin on a regular basis when he does things that she would like to see him doing leads him to continually act in such a manner in the future.
In the interview she mentioned how overprotection has affected her and vows to allow Kevin to be exposed to the realities of the world around him to better prepare him for life on his own, which is ultimately what parenting is all about. Overall, this project was an extremely beneficial experience for me. It helped me to learn how insecure parents can sometimes raise an insecure child who becomes a far more secure and autonomous parent raising a secure child based on their own experiences growing up in combination with their cultural background.
This is revealed as truth in research developed by Ainsworth that found “that maternal behavior toward the infant is the critical determinant of infant attachment” (Lowinger, Dimitrovsky, Strauss, and Mogilner, 1995). When he grows up, he will have a much more positive relationship with his mother than perhaps his mother has with her own. The future appears to be bright for little Kevin who has seemingly found a healthy balance between freedom and dependency.
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