Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child Development


Many young children in the United States spend a substantial amount of time in the care of family child care providers. Previous research has found that when providers are sensitive and responsive to children's needs, children are more likely to develop secure attachment relationships with their providers, which, in turn, have been linked to many developmental benefits for young children. Unfortunately, it appears that many children do not experience the levels of caregiving sensitivity that are necessary to develop secure attachment relationships with their providers and that increased child-related training is not always effective at improving provider caregiving behaviors.

Attachment theory suggests that a caregiver's own working model of attachment, which includes her perceptions of her own attachment experiences and her unconscious information-processing rules about how to interpret and participate in relationships, will strongly influence her caregiving behaviors and will influence her willingness to take up new relationship related information. This exploratory study attempted to test this intergenerational transmission model of caregiving in the family child care context. By using the Perceptions of Adult Attachment Questionnaire (PAAQ), this study also attempted to understand whether a self-report could be useful in identifying particular working models of attachment that were related to differences in a provider's overall emotional tone toward children, in their intensity of engagement with individual children, and in their responsiveness to individual children's learning needs.

Results of this study suggest that providers who endorsed more of a dismissing attitude toward attachment were more likely to respond to children in harsh and punitive manners than provider's who valued attachment. In addition, providers who experienced more enmeshment with their early attachment figures in childhood were more likely to be disengaged from children and their activities. No evidence was found to support the notion that providers who experienced attachment security in their early relationships were more likely to respond sensitively to children and little evidence was found to suggest that a provider's working model of attachment moderated the effectiveness of early childhood coursework on their caregiving sensitivity. Results of this study are discussed in relation to attachment-based sensitivity interventions in the parenting context that offer promise for improving the sensitivity of family child care providers and in relation to directions for future research on the PAAQ.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.