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A Dynamic Systems Model of Infant Attachment

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2 Author(s)
Stevens, G.T. ; Dept. of Psychol., Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA ; Jun Zhang

Attachment, or the emotional tie between an infant and its primary caregiver, has been modeled as a homeostatic process by Bowlby's (Attachment and Loss, 1969; Anxiety and Depression, 1973; Loss: Sadness and Depression, 1980). Evidence from neurophysiology has grounded such mechanism of infant attachment to the dynamic interplay between an opioid-based proximity-seeking mechanism and an NE-based arousal system that are regulated by external stimuli (interaction with primary caregiver and the environment). Here, we model such attachment mechanism and its dynamic regulation by a coupled system of ordinary differential equations. We simulated the characteristic patterns of infant behaviors in the strange situation procedure, a common instrument for assessing the quality of attachment outcomes (??types??) for infants at about one year of age. We also manipulated the parameters of our model to account for neurochemical adaptation, and to allow for caregiver style (such as responsiveness and other factors) and temperamental factor (such as reactivity and readiness in self-regulation) to be incorporated into the homeostatic regulation model of attachment dynamics. Principle component analysis revealed the characteristic regions in the parameter space that correspond to secure, anxious, and avoidant attachment typology. Implications from this kind of approach are discussed.

Published in:

Autonomous Mental Development, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:1 ,  Issue: 3 )