Normative Trends in Children's Perceptions of Availability and Utilization of Attachment Figures in Middle Childhood

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Social Development

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attachment, middle childhood, social adjustment




Two studies addressed the normative aspects of attachments to mothers and fathers in middle childhood. Using both cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons, we tested the hypothesis that children show no changes in perceptions of availability of attachment figures across the later middle childhood years, but do utilize attachment figures less at older ages. The first study included a cross-sectional comparison of third and sixth graders, and the second study was a follow-up on the third graders when they were in fifth grade. Both studies suggested a decline in utilization, but not in perceptions of availability of attachment figures within the later middle childhood years. Study 1 also demonstrated that children turn to parents to meet attachment needs, and peers to meet companionship needs. Study 2 examined individual differences in attachment by exploring how changes in attachment to mothers from third to fifth grade were related to children's social adjustment at fifth grade. Increases in perceptions of availability forecast better emotional and behavioral regulation at fifth grade. Changes in utilization of attachment figures showed both linear and nonlinear relations to regulation.

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