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Center Sponsored Research


Secure Base Scripts Assessment


Early major funding was devoted to the development and testing of the Secure Base Scripts Assessment. For a better understanding of this work, please see  abstracts of the special issue of Attachment and Human Development


The articles described on the Stony Brook website represent efforts of Harriet and Everett Waters, their students and other independent research teams studying the emergence, maintenance, and implications of attachment representations. Taken together, these studies provide broad support for this new procedure and scoring system. The development of this more parsimonious method of assessment of attachment security has enabled researchers to more fully understand and capture important aspects of secure base knowledge for adults and also provide evidence for the relevance of secure base scripts in the socialization of child secure base behavior.


This has been an important aspect of the overall mission of the Center. As we better understand the attachment representations that people form in relationship with their child, efforts can be more focused on improving parent-child interactions.

















Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall. PATTERNS OF ATTACHMENT has been reissued in hard and paper binding June 2015. Includes new preface and new appendices. This is considered to be the fourth most influential of the 20 Studies That Revolutionized Child Psychology.



                                                                     Slide Presentation: 

Infant Attachment and the

Ainsworth Strange Situation

Everett Waters



Description of the

Attachment Scripts Assessment

A critique of Attachment Research:

Slide Presentation by Everett Waters 

- An insightful and often humorous look at the current state of research



Additional research related to Scripts Assessment

Theodore Waters, Ph.D. (along with other colleagues) has extended the work of his parents in furthering the understanding of the cognitive underpinnings of attachment representations. The following are some important studies; other studies may be found here.


The secure base script concept: an overview

Origins of Secure Base Script Knowledge and the Developmental Construction of Attachment Representations

The latent structure of secure base script knowledge.


Convergent validity and stability of secure base script knowledge from young adulthood to midlife


From Internal Working Models to Script-like Attachment Representations


Caregiving antecedents of secure base script knowledge inferred from the Adult Attachment Interview: A comparative, pre-registered analysis

Increasing secure base script knowledge among parents with Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up

Representational measures of attachment: A secure base script perspective



   Other Center-Sponsored Research:


1) Dean Petters, Ph.D. received support to enable his collaboration with Everett Waters to further his understanding of the computer modeling of attachment. Please see his website for references to this work.



2) Markus Maier, Ph.D.  received support to further understand the attachment process by studying the unconscious representations of attachment utilizing the priming method of research. Following is an abstract of an illustrative paper:


Internal working models of attachment (IWMs) are presumed to be largely unconscious representations of childhood attachment experiences. Several instruments have been developed to assess IWMs; some of them are based on self-report and others on narrative interview techniques. This study investigated the capacity of a self-report measure, the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (IPPA; Armsden & Greenberg, 1987), and of a narrative interview method, the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985), to measure unconscious attachment models. We compared scores on the two attachment instruments to response latencies in an attachment priming task. It was shown that attachment organisation assessed by the AAI correlates with priming effects, whereas the IPPA scales were inversely or not related to priming. The results are interpreted as support for the assumption that the AAI assesses, to a certain degree, unconscious working models of attachment.


3)  Funding was provided to German Posada, Ph.D. and colleagues from Columbia, SA to further study the quality of maternal care that results from infants placed in ‘kangaroo care’ (keeping a pre-term infant in a sling and continually attached to the mother or other caretakers).



Carbonell, O. A., Plata, S. J., Peña P. A., Cristo, M. B., & Posada, G. (2010). Quality of maternal care: A comparison of preterm infants in kangaroo mother care and full-term infants in regular care. Universitas Psychologica, 9, 773-785




The purpose of this study was to examine the potential impact of an intervention program (Kangaroo Mother Care, KMC) on maternal sensitivity in a sample of high-risk adolescent mothers. Two mother-infant groups were compared: adolescent mothers with their preterm baby in kangaroo care and adolescent mothers with their full-term baby in regular care. Naturalistic observations at the home environment were conducted to assess maternal quality of care. No significant differences were found between both groups of dyads. Results are in line with the notion that KMC seems to play a protective role for adolescent mothers and their premature babies, given the additional risk factor of prematurity when compared to the full term group. These preliminary findings are stimulating and support further inquiry into effects of KMC on maternal sensitivity particularly in high-risk populations.

Additional work on Scripts by German Posada and Harriet Waters:

Measures: Secure Base Behavior, Co-Construction, and Attachment Scripts

4) John Grienenberger, Ph.D., Kristen Kelly, Ph.D. and Arietta Slade, Ph.D.


A grant was also given by the Center for a study conducted by these authors. This study focused on a mother’s ability to understand her child’s mind; that is, what is it that he or she might be feeling or thinking at any given moment. This is the means by which the mother's own history of relationship with her parents, and the degree to which it was satisfactory or not, then becomes highly relevant to the child’s sense of self and his relationships to others. Thus, the degree to which a parent has the capacity to comprehend the developing mind of the child will then give the child a sense of his own mind.




This study examines the link between mental representations and maternal behavior within the intergenerational transmission of attachment. Maternal reflective functioning was hypothesized to predict the quality of mother – infant affective communication based on the AMBIANCE measure. Each of these measures was also considered as a predictor of the quality of infant attachment. The subjects were 45 mothers and their 10 – 14-month-old infants. Results supported each of the study’s major hypotheses. The AMBIANCE measure and the reflective functioning measure had a strong negative correlation. Thus, the level of disruption in mother–infant affective communication was inversely related to the level of maternal reflective functioning. The AMBIANCE measure was also shown to be a very good predictor of infant attachment. Mothers with high AMBIANCE scores were more likely to have infants classified as disorganized or resistant, whereas mothers with low AMBIANCE scores were more likely to have infants classified as secure. A linear regression analysis indicated that maternal behavior mediates the impact of maternal reflective functioning upon infant attachment. Implications for attachment theory and early intervention are explored.


A related paper by Grienenberger and Slade: 

Maternal Reflective Functioning, Mother-Infant Affective Communication, and Infant Attachment: Implications for Psychodynamic Treatment with Children and Families 


Tamara Kaminer, Ph.D.


Dr. Kaminer received support from the Center as a post-doctoral fellow to pursue her work on maternal support of exploration, which she entitled The Play Partnership: Maternal Support For Explorations of the Fantasy World.


The secure base phenomenon is one of the cornerstones of attachment theory. A great deal of research has examined links between maternal care and the ability in infancy and childhood to explore and master the physical environment. The present research extends this work by examining the caregiver's role in support of explorations into the realm of fantasy. Children and mothers are observed playing with a variety of toys that lend themselves to pretend play. We have developed a scoring system that evaluates both the child's interest and enthusiasm in delving into pretend play and the mother's support for such explorations.


The term play partnership refers to dyadic interaction in which the mother is facilitative but not intrusive and the child is curious and engaged and understands the conventions of pretend play. Although pretend play depends on the maturation of certain cognitive skills, it is also substantially a product of parent-child interaction. The lessons underpinning fluent and extensive pretend play include (a) knowledge of reciprocal roles and turn taking, (b) understanding that you can pretend behavior that you wouldn't really do, (c) the expectation that you can select and develop your own lines of play without intrusions or interference, (d) trust that mother will accept pretended behavior as playful and beyond sanction, and (e) confidence that mother will be available and supportive if the play takes an uncertain or frightening turn.


We are currently looking at the links between maternal attachment representations and the quality of the mother-child play partnership. We hope this work will cast light on an important new facet of the secure base phenomenon and also help us understand individual differences in mothers' ability to serve effectivley as a co-therapist.








Harriet Waters, Ph.D.

Stony Brook University

Everett Waters, Ph.D.

Stony Brook University

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