Spending nights away from home affects baby's attachment

Last Updated: Sun, Jul 21, 2013 09:20 hrs

Infants who spent at least one night per week away from their mothers have more insecure attachments to the mother, as compared to babies who had fewer overnights or saw their fathers only during the day, a new study has found.

Attachments are defined as an enduring, deep, emotional connection between an infant and caregiver that develops within the child's first year of life, according to Samantha Tornello, the study's lead author and a Ph.D. candidate in psychology in U.Va.'s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Attachments during that critical first year serve as the basis for healthy attachments and relationships later in life, including adulthood, Tornello said.

She noted that growing numbers of parents are living apart due to nonmarital childbirth, the breakup of cohabitating parents, separation and divorce.

Parents increasingly are choosing to share child rearing in some form of joint custody, and often the legal system must determine custody arrangements for the children of parents who do not live together, she said.

Tornello pointed out that either the mother or father could be the primary caregiver, but the point would be that the child ideally would be in the care each night of a loving and attentive caregiver and that there may be something disruptive about an infant spending nights in different homes.

The findings are published online in the Journal of Marriage and Family. (ANI)