University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

An Exploration of the Association Between Attachment Status and the Development of a Theory of Mind in the Pre-School Years.

Morley Williams, Lucy. (1999) An Exploration of the Association Between Attachment Status and the Development of a Theory of Mind in the Pre-School Years. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

Download (11MB) | Preview


Previous research has found an association between secure attachment and the development of a theory of mind in the pre-school years, premised upon an intergenerational perspective (Fonagy et al. 1994; Fonagy et al. 1997). The primary objective of the present thesis was to further explore this relationship by focusing upon the disparate experiences of the three main attachment groups. Drawing upon existing literature and, specifically, the conceptualisation of the attachment relationship proposed by Crittenden (1990, 1992a&b, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997a,b,&c) it was hypothesised that there would be a sliding scale of false belief understanding dependent on attachment status (from secure to avoidant to ambivalent). The sample consisted of 56 pre-school children (mean age 3.7) attending the same nursery, permitting extensive observations of the participants. The experimental measures included four false belief tests, one desire-reasoning and one emotion perspective taking test. Following this phase of the research, 8 Adult Attachment Interviews (George et al. 1985) were collected, incorporating the Reflective Self Functioning Scale (Fonagy et al. 1996). The adult measures provided illustrative, if not quantifiable, documentation of the previously reported intergenerational transmission of a theory of mind and attachment from parent to child. As predicted the results indicated a significant association between ambivalent attachment and poor test performance, although the hypothesised sliding scale did not materialise. In addition, a clear differentiation between secure and insecure children’s pass rate on the experimental measures was not replicated. The observations provided a rich source of data, illuminating both the anomalies that arose and complemented theoretical arguments and previous empirical findings. The two primary confounding factors identified were 1) the better than expected performance of the avoidant children and 2) a number of secure children, labelled “inconsistent secure”, who performed poorly on the false belief tests.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Morley Williams, Lucy.
Date : 1999
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 1999.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 06 May 2020 14:06
Last Modified : 06 May 2020 14:11

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800