DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00353

Acta Psychologica Sinica (心理学报) 2014/46:3 PP.353-366

Internal Working Models of Toddlers: A Bridge from Maternal Sensitivity to Toddlers' Attachment Behaviors

Internal working models are based on young children's expectations for the behavior of their attachment figures that develop into broader representations of their relational experiences, and decision rules about how to interact with others. These internal working models are thought to influence the child's subsequent processing of social experiences and allow the child to anticipate, plan for, and adapt to his or her social world. Current research studies largely concentrated on the internal working models of attachment in childhood and adulthood; very little inquiry has been conducted on internal working models of preverbal infants and toddlers. It was not until 2007 that a study by Johnson, Dweck and Chen had found evidence for infants' internal working models of attachment using a habituation paradigm. In addition, some theorists and researchers have indicated that maternal sensitivity is associated with internal working models in childhood; and also it has been suggested that maternal sensitivity may affect toddler's attachment status. Therefore, internal working models may play an important role in relationship between maternal sensitivity and toddler's attachment status. However, there is inadequate research on maternal sensitivity and internal working models in infancy. The present study explored the relationship between toddlers' attachment status, maternal sensitivity and internal working models of toddlers. We hypothesized that toddlers of different attachment status might have unique patterns of expectations about their mother's responsive behavior, and the expectations might correspond to maternal sensitivity in caregiver-infant interactions.
Forty-one toddlers (M = 14.01 months, SD = 0.81) and their mothers from middle class backgrounds participated in the study. A visual habituation study using abstract animations with separation and reunion events was conducted to test a part of the toddlers' internal working models—their expectations of a caregiver's responsiveness. Toddlers' attachment status was assessed by the Strange Situation procedure. Maternal sensitivity in caregiver-toddler interactions was measured by Maternal Behavior Q-Sort. The data was analyzed using repeated-measure analysis of variance, chi-square analyses, paired t tests, q-factor analysis and LCA.
Results were as follows: (1) Toddlers' expectations of a caregiver's responsiveness depended on their own attachment status: insecure toddlers expected their caregivers to withhold comfort; (2) Toddlers' expectations of a caregiver's responsiveness depended on their mother's behavior: the toddlers of Self-centered mothers expected caregivers to be unresponsive; (3) The results found by LCA indicated that there were two types of attachment system: Category 1, the toddlers of Child-centered mothers tended to expect their caregivers to be responsive, and showed secure attachment behaviors. Category 2, the toddlers of Self-centered mothers tended to expect their caregivers to be unresponsive, and showed insecure attachment behaviors in Strange Situation procedure.
These results indicated that it was effective to using a visual habituation procedure to measure internal working models of preverbal toddlers. The claims that toddlers' internal working models play an important role in the relationship between maternal sensitivity and toddler's attachment status can be supported. If we want to change the attachment status of toddlers through their internal working models, we should pay attention to the behavior of their mothers.

Key words:toddler,attachment,internal working models,maternal sensitivity

ReleaseDate:2016-12-20 17:21:27

Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1969). Object relations, dependency, and attachment: A theoretical review of the infant-mother relationship. Child Development, 40, 969-1025.

Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1973). The development of infant-mother attachment. In B. Caldwell & H. Ricciuti (Eds.), Review of child development research (Vol. 3, pp. 1-94). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Bell, S. M., & Stayton, D. J. (1971). Individual differences in strange situation behavior of one-year-olds. In H. Schaffer (Ed.), The origins of human social relations (pp. 17-57). London: Academic Press.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation (xviii, p. 391). Oxford, England: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Juffer, F. (2003). Less is more: Meta-analyses of sensitivity and attachment interventions in early childhood. Psychological Bulletin, 129(2), 195-215.

Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, M. L. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 226-244.

Belsky, J. (1999). Quantity of nonmaternal care and boys' problem behavior/adjustment at ages 3 and 5: Exploring the mediating role of parenting. Psychiatry, 62, 1-20.

Bergman, L. R. (1998). A pattern-oriented approach to studying individual development: Snapshots and processes. In R. B. Cairns, L. R. Bergman, & J. Kagan (Eds.), Methods and models for studying the individual (pp. 83-122). London: Sage Publications.

Bowlby, J. (1979). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. London: Tavistock.

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss: Vol. 3. Loss, sadness and depression. New York: Basic Books.

Bretherton, I. (1987). New perspectives on attachment relations: Security, communication, and internal working models. In J. D. Osofsky (Ed.), Handbook of infant development (pp. 1061-1100). New York: Wiley.

Bretherton, I., & Munholland, K. A. (1999). Internal working models in attachment relationships. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 89-111). New York: Guilford.

Chen, H. C., & Liang, L. Z. (2000). The study of Parent-Child attachment and its development. Journal of Developments in Psychology, 18(1), 29-34.

[陈会昌, 梁兰芝. (2000). 亲子依恋研究的进展. 心理学动态, 18(1), 29-34.]

De Wolff, M. S., & van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (1997). Sensitivity and attachment: A meta-analysis on parental antecedents of infant attachment. Child Development, 68(4), 571-591.

Goodman, G., Aber, J. L., Berlin, L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1998). The relations between maternal behaviors and urban preschool children's internal working models of attachment security. Infant Mental Health Journal, 19(4), 378-393.

Grossmann, K., Grossmann, K. E., & Kindler, H. (2005). Early care and the roots of attachment and partnership representations: The Bielefeld and Regensburg Longitudinal Studies. In K.E. Grossmann, K. Grossmann, & E. Waters (Eds.), Attachment from Infancy to Adulthood (pp. 98-136). New York: Guilford Press.

Ji, L.Q., & Zhang, W. X. (2011). Person-oriented theory and methods in developmental research. Advances in Psychological Science, 19(11), 1563-1571.

[纪林芹, 张文新. (2011). 发展心理学研究中个体定向的理论与方法. 心理科学进展, 19(11), 1563-1571.]

Johnson, S. C., Dweck, F. S., & Chen, F. S. (2007). Evidence for infants' internal working models of attachment. Psychological Science, 18(6), 501-502.

Johnson, S. C., Dweck, F. S., Chen, F. S., Stern, H. L., Ok, S. J, & Barth, M. (2010). At the intersection of social and cognitive development: internal working models of attachment in infancy. Cognitive Science, 34, 807-825.

Main, M. (1990). Cross-cultural studies of attachment organization: Recent studies, changing methodologies and the concept of conditional strategies. Human Development, 33, 48-61.

Molenaar, P. C. M., & Campbell, C. G. (2009). The new person-specific paradigm in psychology. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 112-117.

Moran, G., Pederson, D. R., & Bento, S. (2010). MBQS-72 for Detailed Video Coding (2010). Retrieved Jan 8, 2012, from

Mueller, E., & Tingley, E. (1990). The Bears' Picnic: Children's representations of themselves and their families. New Directions for Child Development, 48, 47-65.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1997). The effects of infant child care on infant—mother attachment security. Child Development, 68, 860-879.

NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2001). Child care and children's peer interactions at 24 and 36 months: The NICHD study of early Child care. Child Development, 72, 1478-1500.

Pederson, D. R., Moran G., & Bento, S. (2009). Assessing maternal sensitivity and the quality of mother-Infant interactions using The Maternal Behavior Q-Sort (MBQS). Pederson-Moran MBQS Manual. unpublished manuscript. Western University at Ontario, Canada.

Pederson, D. R., Moran, G., & Bento, S. (1999). Maternal Behaviour Q-Sort. Psychology Publications, 1. Retrieved Jan 8, 2012, from

Pederson, D. R., Moran, G., Sitko, C., Campbell, K., Ghesquire, K., & Acton, H. (1990). Maternal sensitivity and the security of infant-mother attachment: A Q-sort study. Child Development, 61(6), 1974-1983.

Qiu, H. Z. (2008). Latent class model: Principles and techniques. Beijing, China: Educational Science Publishing House.

[邱皓政. (2008). 潜在类别模型的原理与技术. 北京: 教育科学出版社.]

Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rogoff, B. (1995). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. In J. V. Wertsch, P. D. Rio, & A. Alvarez (Eds.), Sociocultural studies of mind (p. 252). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Schmolck, P. (1997). About Pqmethod2.0. Retrieved Jan 8, 2012, from

Spangler, G., & Delius, A. (2003). The inner working model as a “theory of attachment”. In 11th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Milano, Italy.

Thompson, R. A. (1998). Early sociopersonality development. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 25-104). New York: Wiley.

Thompson, R. A. (1999). Early attachment and later development. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 89-111). New York: Guilford.

Thompson, R. A. (2009). The development of the person: social understanding, relationships, conscience, self. In N. Damon, & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology (6th Edition), Vol. 3: Social, Emotional, and Personality Development (pp. 28-99). Shanghai, China: East China Normal University Press. (Original work published 2006)

[Thompson, R. A. (2009). 个人发展: 社会理解、关系、道德、自我. 见 戴蒙, 勒纳(编), (林崇德, 李其维, 董奇等译). 儿童心理学手册 (第六版) 第三卷: 社会、情绪和人格发展 (pp. 28-99). 上海: 华东师范大学出版社.]

von Eye, A., & Bergman, L. R. (2003). Research strategies in developmental psychopathology: Dimensional identity and the person-oriented approach. Development and Psychopathology, 15(3), 553-580.

von Eye, A., & Bogat, G. A. (2006). Person-oriented and variable-oriented research: Concepts, results, and development. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 52(3), 390-420.

Wang, Z. Y., Liu, Y. Z., & Yang, Y. (2005). Review on the researches of attachment working models. Advances in Psychological Science, 13(5), 629-639.

[王争艳, 刘迎泽, 杨叶. (2005). 依恋内部工作模式的研究概述及探讨. 心理科学进展, 13(5), 629-639.]

You, J., & Guo, Y. Y. (2008). Internal working models for attachment: concept and research. Journal of Nanjing Normal University (Social Science Edition), 1(1), 98-104.

[尤瑾, 郭永玉. (2008). 依恋的内部工作模型. 南京师范大学学报(社会科学版), 1(1), 98-104.]

Zimmermann, P. (1999). Structure and functions of internal working models of attachment and their role for emotion regulation. Attachment & Human Development, 1(3), 291-306.