Parenting provides the context for the child’s development (Sroufe, 2020). But the quality of parenting is influenced by the context surrounding the parent. Quality of parenting can be predicted by the parents own developmental history and current circumstances. The level of stress a family is facing and their level of social support are both hugely influential. Changes in these predicts changes in the child’s behaviour. Movement from insecure attachment at 12 months to secure attachment at 18 was most strongly predicted by decrease in family stress. Parents who are less stressed can be more responsive to their infants, leading to them feeling more secure. This knowledge provides important directions for interventions.

The Minnesota study began with the question as to whether child maltreatment was predictable and the answer says Sroufe, is a resounding yes (2020). Parents distorted expectations, lack of understanding of the infant, high stress and low support, and developmental histories were all predictive. Parental sensitivity and responsivity in the first 6 months of life predicted security of attachment at age one (as did family stress and support). Attachment predicted behaviour of both mother and infant at age two in a problem-solving assessment engaged by the child with support of parent. Successful children – if this represented their daily experience – would develop confidence in meeting challenges, joy in discovery and belief that support is there from others when needed. At the opposite end of the spectrum children lost any positive feelings about the self, a sense of being effective, and would be doubtful that help is available. These predicted differences in functioning for the next number of decades. Maltreatment of infants was unsurprisingly linked to anxious attachments. Physical neglect was linked with anxious/ resistant attachment. Physical abuse and especially emotional unavailability were linked with avoidant attachment.


Sroufe, L. A. (2020). A compelling idea: How we become the persons we are.