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Secure attachment in infancy predicts context-dependent emotion expression in middlehood

The article explores the connection between secure attachment in infancy and the expression of emotions in middle childhood, particularly in children at risk for emotion dysregulation involved with Child Protective Services.

Emotional Expression

Emotional expression refers to how children convey their feelings in different situations, such as distress or happiness, within the parent-child relationship. The study emphasizes the importance of observing children's emotional expression across various contexts, assessing their ability to appropriately show emotions, adapt to changing demands, and recover from distress, providing insights into healthy emotional development.


  • 'Attachment theory posits that infants are biologically motivated to seek proximity to caregivers for protection and stress management.
  • The quality of infant attachment, evaluated through methods like the Strange Situation, affects emotional expression and regulation.
  • Securely attached infants effectively signal for nurturance during distress, while insecurely attached infants may display minimized or heightened emotional expression.

During middle childhood, parents remain primary attachment figures, and children with secure attachment histories are anticipated to openly express distress, signaling their need for parental support, fostering effective emotion regulation, and a return to positive affect.

Middle childhood


The study involved children (mean age = 9.47) from a randomized clinical trial, with 78 children analyzed.


Primary analyses revealed that securely attached children, compared to insecurely attached ones, displayed less positive affect in the distress discussion, less negative affect in the positive discussion, and more appropriate affective expression in both discussions during a two-part parent-child interaction in middle childhood.



Real World Implications:

1.Early Intervention Programs :Parenting ProgramsEarly Childhood Mental Health ConsultationCollaboration with Healthcare ProvidersParental Leave Policies2. Therapeutic Services for At-Risk Families:risk of insecure attachment due to factors such as trauma, socioeconomic challenges, or mental health issues.

Contribution of the article

1.Validation of the Impact of Early Attachment on Emotional Expression2. Relevance to Clinical Practice -enquiring about the attachment history of the clients3.Linking Emotional Expression to Attachment Quality