The Pennsylvania Child And Family Development Project

The Minnesota group's early research validating classifications of attachment security based on behavior in the Strange Situation proved to be extremely important in shaping my investigatory endeavors. Having received only minimal training in attachment theory as a graduate student at Cornell University in the mid-1970s, but a great deal on the role of family, community, cultural and historical context in shaping human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1978), I found the prospect of integrating these two distinct research traditions pregnant with opportunity. In fact, because my doctoral research had focused upon parenting and infant development, with a special concern for fathering as well as mothering and husband-wife as well as parent-child relationships (Belsky, 1979a,b), it proved rather easy to extend my research horizon to incorporate ideas from attachment theory into my ecologically-oriented program of research on early human experience in the family. What was principally required was the inclusion of Strange Situation assessments into what developed into a series of four short-term longitudinal studies focused upon the opening years of life that I have come to refer to collectively as the Pennsylvania Child and Family Development Project which I directed over the first two decades of my career while I was at Penn State University.

Inclusion of infant-mother and infant-father attachment assessments in these longitudinal studies enabled me to address a number of theoretically important questions. These concern the determinants of individual differences in infant-parent attachment security, including infant temperament, quality of parenting, early child care, and the social context in which the parent-child dyad is embedded. At the same time that this work was going on in central Pennsylvania, my collaboration with colleagues in a 10-site study of infant day care also enabled me to address issues of child care and attachment with greater precision than was possible in my more local investigations and to extend my basic empirical research on attachment to examine the developmental sequelae of individual differences in infant-mother attachment security. In what follows, I summarize many of the results of these inquiries. I consider first work pertaining to parenting and temperament influences on attachment security, before proceeding to consider the broader ecological context in which attachment relationships are embedded. Finally, before making some closing remarks intended to modernize the evolutionary basis of attachment theory, I review my research on nonmaternal child care and infant-parent attachment security, as well as on the developmental sequelae of infant-mother attachment security. It should be noted that no attempt will be made to extensively review related research on these and other topics pertinent to the study of attachment in infancy. For such reviews, see Belsky and Cassidy (1994), Colin (1996), and Cassidy and Shaver (1999).

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