ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 7, Issue 3, 360-373, 2016
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The Role of Attachment Anxiety in Maternal Attentional Processing of their Child’s Face: An Eye-Tracking Study

  Eva Vandevivere - Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  Sofie van de Brande - Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  Guy Bosmans - Parenting and Special Education Research Unit, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  Sven Mueller - Department of Experimental Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  Caroline Braet - Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium

Volume 7, Issue 3, 2016, Pages 360-373

Although mother’s attention to offspring is deemed important to support their offspring’s secure attachment development, little research tested this association. The current study aimed to test the hypothesis that how mothers orient their attention to their offspring is linked to differences in offspring’s attachment style. Additionally, we tested whether this association depended on which emotions children express. 29 mothers participated with their offspring (48.3% girls; ages 9 to 15 years, M = 10.93, SD = 1.67). Across two experimental blocks, eye movements were recorded as mothers viewed photographs of offspring and unfamiliar children showing neutral (block 1) and facial expressions of fearful, happy and sad (block 2). Offspring’s self-reported attachment anxiety was related to increased maintained attention of the mother on the offspring’s neutral face, while more attachment security was related to reduced maintained attention. With regard to emotional faces, mothers of more anxiously attached children showed more maintained attention on all emotional expressions of their offspring, including sadness. Furthermore, we found a positive attentional bias of mothers with more securely attached children; increased attention on the offspring’s happy face was found. No attentional processes were found for attachment avoidance. Different attachment-related parenting behaviors, leading to a specific attachment style of the offspring, could be explained by these attentional allocations.

Table of Contents
 The Present Study
  Experimental task.
 Questionnaire measures.
  Attachment anxiety and avoidance.
  Attachment security.
 Eye Movement Variables of Interest
  Total viewing time.
  Maintained attention.
 Data Analytical Method
 Missing Data
 Descriptive Statistics
 Preliminary Analysis
  The effect of Familiarity on the dependent variables
  The effects of age or gender on the dependent variables.
  Block 1 Analysis: Associations Between Mothers’ Attention to Familiar and Unfamiliar Neutral Faces and Child Self-Reported Attachment
  Block 2 Analysis: Associations Between Mothers’ Attention to Familiar and Unfamiliar Emotional Faces and Child Self-Reported Attachment

Correspondence to
Sven C. Mueller, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

attachment, eye tracking, development, adolescents, anxiety, attention, emotion

Received 25 Nov 2015; Revised 16 Jun 2016; Accepted 16 Jun 2016; In Press 26 Jun 2016

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