In the past three or four decades, many investigators have explored the process of mother-infant attachment or bonding. Spitz and Bowlby were the first. More recently, Klaus and Kennell,* of Case Western Reserve University, have suggested seven factors that they believe to be crucial components in the process of parental attachment.
1. There is a sensitive period in the first minutes and hours of life during which it is necessary that the mother and father have close contact with their neonate for later development to be optimal.
2. There appear to be species-specific responses to the infant in the human mother and father that are exhibited when they are first given their infant.
3. The process of the attachment is structured so that the father and mother will become attached optimally to only one infant at a time. (In 1958, Bowlby stated this principle of the attachment process in the other direction and termed it "monotrophy.")
4. During the process of the mother's attachment to her infant, it is necessary that the infant respond to the mother by some signal, such as body or eye movements. We have described this by saying, "You can't love a dishrag."
5. People who witness the birth process become strongly attached to the infant.
6. For some adults it is difficult simultaneously to go through the processes of attachment and detachment - that is, to develop an attachment to one person while mourning the loss or threatened loss of the same or another person.
7. Some early events have long-lasting effects. Anxieties about the well-being of a baby with a temporary disorder in the first day may result in long-lasting concerns that may cast long shadows and adversely shape the development of the child.
Klaus and Kennell have demonstrated that the affectional bonds a mother and father establish with their infant during the first hours and days of life significantly affect later development. Early attachment studies focused on the bonding of the infant to his mother, but the focus is now on the tie in the opposite direction, from parent to infant and, hence, on the role of the infant in this process.
Leitch and Escalona pointed out as early as 1949 the constitutional differences in newborn infants, as did Fries and Woolf in 1953. However, it remained for Thomas and Chess to examine the temperamental characteristics of infants and children and the role infant and child temperament plays in the reciprocal relationship between parent and child.
In the following article, Drs. Chess and Thomas discuss temperament and its role in parent-child interaction and, hence, in the parenting process.