Attachment as a protective factor: An intra-family design
Research literature has indicated that attachment is often identified as the primary protective factor that allows a child to become resilient despite exposure to multiple risk factors. However, the existing body of research on attachment has made near universal use of inter-family research designs. In doing so, much of the existing research has failed to control for numerous variables that may influence the research's outcome(s). Therefore, the purpose of this research is twofold: First is to assess if attachment levels are significantly different in resilient individuals when compared to non-resilient siblings and, secondly, to accomplish this research through the use of an intra-family research design.
This particular study makes use of inmate populations in Minnesota and Wisconsin adult prisons who have met the research criteria for being non-resilient and their siblings who have met the research criteria for being resilient. Non-resilient/resilient siblings were differentiated by the variables of felony criminal record, chemical use and the completion of a traditional, community based high school diploma program. Additionally, sibling pairs were matched along a number of biological and demographic criteria. Ultimately 55 sibling pairs were identified as meeting the research criteria and who also volunteered to serve as the research population.
Once identified, all research subjects completed a series of standardized questionnaires regarding substance use and 4 scales regarding their early childhood attachment experiences. Attachment was measured with regard to mothers, fathers, best friends and other adults.
Data analyses revealed that resilient siblings had significantly more attachment figures in their childhood and that they also had significantly higher levels of attachment to these attachment figures when compared to their non-resilient siblings. These findings supplement existing research on the role played by attachment figures as well as beginning to fill the gap created by inter-family research designs.
These results have numerous implications for both social work practice and policy. Social workers must be mindful about the needs of at risk children. However, being mindful must also include a willingness to advocate for social work practice models and policies that support and augment a child's need for positive early childhood attachment experiences.
Families & family life;
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships