Graduation date: 1989Attachment, as described by Bowlby (1969), is an emotional bond between two people. It is an invisible internal characteristic which is assumed to exist because of behaviors exhibited by the attached individual. These proximity seeking behaviors are critical for survival of the infant. Sensitivity of the mother to the infant's behavior cues may lead the mother to respond contingently and appropriately to her infant and is one of the indicators of an attached mother-infant relationship (Ainsworth, 1977). However, there may be barriers to the process of attachment for the mother and her infant if the infant is ill or preterm. Because of the interactive nature of attachment, it is important to assess both maternal and infant characteristics in order to increase knowledge about those barriers. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationships of the infant's illness state, maternal contact with her infant, and the mother's perception of her infant to the mother's sensitivity and responsiveness to her infant's behavior during feeding interactions while the infant was hosptialized. Fifty-three mother-infant dyads participated in the study. Data were collected by auditing the infant's chart, evaluating questionnaires completed by the mother, and coding of videotapes of feeding interactions the first time the mother fed the infant and a feeding interaction within 24 hours prior to the infants' discharge from the hospital. The Nursing Child Assessment Feeding Scale (NCAFS) was used to record sensitivity and responsiveness during feeding interactions. Hypothesized relationships were only partially supported by the findings of this study. Infant illness was significantly positively correlated to maternal sensitivity and responsivenss during the feeding interactions in spite of the finding of no relationship between infant illness and infant behaviors. Also, the mothers of the sicker infants rated their infants as having more difficulty with the infant behaviors assessed on the "Your Baby" form of the Neonatal Perception Inventory (NPI). Therefore, the sicker the infant, the more sensitive and responsive the mother was to her infant and the more the mother stated that her infant had difficulty with spitting up, eating, sleeping, predictability in schedule, and with bowel movements. These findings were robust regardless of the gestational age of the infant. Maternal contact and maternal perceptions of her infant compared to the average infant (NPI) were not correlated to maternal sensitivity and responsiveness during feeding interactions. These findings lead to the conclusion that mothers of ill\ud infants may not be at such a risk for difficulty in maternalinfant\ud interaction difficulty due to unrealistic expectations of\ud infant behaviors, poorly organized infant behaviors, and/or\ud limited contact with their infants
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