2013. Vol.4, No.5, 483-487
Published Online May 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.45068
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 483
The Effect of a Mother’s Level of Attachment and Her Emotional
Intelligence on a Child’s Health during Its First Year of Life
Elena Nikolaeva, Vera Merenkova
Herzen State Pedagogical University, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Received January 3rd, 2013; revised February 6th, 2013; accepted March 23rd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Elena Nikolaeva, Vera Merenkova. This is an open access article distributed under the Crea-
tive Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any me-
dium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The aim of this study was to investigate the possibility of predicting the health of a child during its first
year by using the mother’s emotional intelligence and the level of her attachment to the child. Serving as
test subjects were 50 mother-child pairs during the first year of life and 50 mother-child pairs during the
second year of life (altogether 200 individuals). It was shown that the likelihood of dismissing a diagnosis
given to a child at a maternity clinic depends on the level of the mother’s acceptance of the child and not
on her emotional intelligence and anxiety.
Keywords: Health; Emotional Intelligence; Attachment; A Child in Its First Year of Life
Being able to forecast healthy changes of behavior in a sub-
ject is among the typical concerns of health psychology (e.g.
Balmford, Borland, & Burney, 2010; Murnaghan et al., 2010;
Lyons, 2011). Such behavior is clearly determined to a signifi-
cant degree by the subject’s motivation to lead a healthy life-
style. There are considerably fewer studies devoted to changes
in behavior attributable not to internal needs but to the desire
not to harm the health of another person, for example when
parents give up smoking so as not to harm the health of their
child (Moan, Rise, & Andersen, 2005). But there is a vast field,
virtually untouched by research, in which the behavior of adults
determines the health of a child. Such an influence is very like-
ly during the first year of a child’s life, when the number of
external factors affecting their health is restricted primarily by
interaction with the few members of the family into which it
After birth, most children (about 95% - 99% of them) in
Russia are given one or another diagnosis while they are still at
a maternity clinic, where neurologist examines each child (Ba-
ranov, 1999). It may later be expanded or dismissed after a visit
from a polyclinic doctor. The most typical ones are perinatal
encephalopathy and motor disturbance syndrome. Such illnes-
ses in children are caused by chronic intrauterine fetal hypoxia
as a result of various diseases contracted by the mother during
pregnancy (Kulakov & Frolova, 2004). However, by the end of
the child’s first year of life, and, very often, by the end of the
second year, these earlier diagnoses are dismissed by specialists
To a considerable extent, improvement in a child’s condition
after birth is predetermined by the effective actions of those
who are taking care of it, mainly the mother (In Russia, it is
primarily the mother who cares for a child until the age of two).
In most families, it is the mother who takes a child to the doctor
and carries out the instructions necessary for rehabilitation. In
this case, her involvement in the process of restoring the child’s
health will substantially affect whether or not the prognosis for
recovery is favorable in those instances when the illness is not
hereditary but is determined by particular features of intrauter-
ine development and birth.
And so the question arises: Having evaluated different psy-
chological features of the mother, is it possible to predict how
effective a child’s recovery is likely to be? Among the psycho-
logical factors that are very likely to speed up a child’s reha-
bilitation, it is the mother’s emotional features that stand out.
There are a considerable number of studies that attest to the ne-
gative influence of a mother’s postnatal depression on her child’s
intellect. It has been proven that the earlier this pathology arises
in the mother, the more pronounced the negative effects on the
child (Petterson & Albers, 2001), especially a boy (Offord, 1989).
There are, however, no studies about the positive influence on a
child’s recovery of other emotional manifestations of the mo-
ther, for example the level of her emotional intelligence and at-
tachment to the child.
For this reason, the aim of this study was to examine the in-
fluence of a mother’s emotional intelligence and her attachment
to a child on the likelihood of dismissing the child’s diagnosed
illness due to perinatal problems experienced by the mother du-
Participants and Procedure
Overall 200 test subjects were examined, 50 mother-child
pairs with the child in the first year of life (the mean age of the
mothers was 24.46 (SD = 5.57) years and 50 mother-child pairs
with the child in the second year of life (the mean age of the
mothers was 25.54 (SD = 4.9 years). Of the 50 children in the
first year of life, 23 were girls and 27 were boys; of the 50 child-
ren in the second year of life, 24 were girls and 26 were boys.
E. NIKOLAEVA, V. MERENKOVA
The gender breakdown of the sample groups did not differ from
each other and conformed to the known statistics, which show a
slight predominance among newborn males (Golubeva, Les-
henko, & Pechora, 2002).
The study was conducted in a children’s clinic in one of the
districts of Yeletz, a city in west-central Russia.
The following two sets of procedures were used to carry out
the aim of the study. The first set of procedures involved de-
scribing the distinct features concerning the health of the chil-
dren in their first or second year of life. A comprehensive ap-
praisal of the children’s health was conducted based on health
criteria (Golubeva, Leshenko, & Pechora, 2002), information
about which was received from the individual medical records
of the children, aged up to two years. Permission to use this in-
formation was obtained from the children’s parents.
The second set of procedures was aimed at examining the
psychological features of the mothers with children up to two
years old and included the following procedures:
1) A questionnaire evaluating the attitude of a mother toward
a child during its first two years of life (Vereshagina & Niko-
laeva, 2009). The questionnaire included four scales:
a) Sensitivity—insensitivity to the needs of the baby. This
parameter establishes the extent to which the mother is capable
of understanding the child’s needs and seeing a situation from
its point of view.
b) Acceptance—rejection. This scale determines the degree
to which the parents accept the child, i.e., it evaluates how
much the child corresponds to their expectations.
c) Responsiveness—intrusion. This parameter establishes the
mother’s respect for the independence and individuality of the
child and shows how prepared she is to support its initiative,
develop its abilities and, not suppressing them, press for the re-
alization of its own wishes.
d) Encouragement—neglect. This scale establishes that as-
pect of the mother’s behavior which reveals the degree of her
emotional fitness. This parameter evaluates her ability to sup-
port the tot when it is experiencing difficulties.
Such is a qualitative description of a mother’s level of at-
tachment to her child. A high level of healthy attachment cor-
responds to high scores that the mother’s answers receive ac-
cording to all four scales. This means that she is extremely
sensitive to the needs of her child, accepts it as it is and does
not try to follow the socially accepted notions of child devel-
opment. She always responds promptly to the child’s appeals,
providing support for its undertakings and granting sufficient
freedom for its own actions.
A mean level of healthy attachment is assigned when either
mean scores are given for all scales or very high scores for the
majority of scales are combined with low marks for one of
them. In this case, we did not take into account the contribution
of each scale to the final result since we had set ourselves the
task of evaluating the types of interaction in the mother-child
pair. Accordingly, with a mean level of healthy attachment, a
mother shows sensitivity to her child’s needs in most cases and
tries to develop socially desirable forms of behavior beginning
in early childhood. Depending on the situation, she responds to
the child’s appeals and provides support for its initiatives but
often excessively controls its behavior or, being extremely busy,
fails to respond in certain instances to the child’s appeals for
A low level of healthy attachment corresponds to low scores
on all scales or average scores on two and very low marks on
some of the other scales. In practice, the mother shows interest
in the child in socially acceptable situations, and when wit-
nesses are present, and tends to impose her own stereotypes of
behavior on the child regardless of its needs. In most cases, she
ignores the child’s interests and rejects its requests for support
or independent investigation.
Unhealthy attachment is characterized by a mother pursuing
her own line of behavior in interaction without considering the
wishes of her child and the particularities of its development,
essentially impeding the independence and initiative of the
child and not striving to support it in difficult situations (re-
strictiveness or neglect prevail). Thus, it is obvious that we can
separate out anxious unhealthy attachment from the responses,
but no mother would write about the ambivalence of her be-
havior in relation to her child. For the time being, it is possible
that this type of interaction falls into the category of healthy
attachment since many mothers, in their responses, are guided
not by their own behavior but by what they consider to be the
2) The questionnaire to evaluate emotional intelligence (Ly-
usin, 2004) is a standardized methodology for measuring the
level of emotional intelligence. The questionnaire is based on
an interpretation of emotional intelligence as the ability to un-
derstand one’s own and others’ emotions and to control them.
In its final form, the questionnaire consists of 46 statements in
relation to which the test subject must express the extent of their
agreement, using a four-point scale (strongly disagree, tend to
disagree, tend to agree, strongly agree). These statements are
combined into five sub-scales, which, in turn, are combined
into four scales of a more general nature.
The questionnaire included the following scales:
a) A scale of interpersonal emotional intelligence, which is
aimed at evaluating the ability to understand the emotions of
other people and to control them.
b) A scale of intrapersonal emotional intelligence, which de-
scribes the ability to understand one’s own emotions and to
c) A scale of emotional understanding, which delineates the
ability to understand one’s own and others’ emotions.
d) A scale of emotional control, which defines the ability to
control one’s own and others’ emotions.
A sub-scale of understanding others’ emotions, which de-
scribes the ability to understand a person’s emotional state ba-
sed on external manifestations of emotions (facial expressions,
gestures, tone of voice) and/or one’s own intuition; sensitivity
to the inner state of other people.
A sub-scale of controlling others’ emotions, which delineates
the ability to evoke various emotions in other people, to reduce
the intensity of undesirable emotions and, possibly, the inclina-
tion to manipulate people.
A sub-scale of understanding one’s own emotions, which de-
fines the ability to perceive one’s emotions, to recognize and
identify them, to understand their source and to verbalize them.
A sub-scale of controlling one’s own emotions, which de-
scribes the ability and need to control one’s emotions, to evoke
and encourage desirable emotions and to keep those that are un-
desirable under control.
A sub-scale of controlling expression, which describes the
ability to control the display of one’s emotions.
3) A Russian version of the Spielberger questionnaire, ad-
apted for Russian-speaking test subjects by Khanin (Shapar,
2006). This allowed us to determine the level of situational and
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
E. NIKOLAEVA, V. MERENKOVA
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 485
According to the statistics obtained after analysis of the chil-
dren’s medical records, practically all of the children were gi-
ven one or another postnatal diagnosis (90 percent of the chil-
dren in the first year of life and 95 percent of those in the sec-
ond year). By the end of the first year of life, however, 40 per-
cent of the diagnoses had been dismissed, and by the end of the
second year, 60 percent (Table 1).
This decline in the incidence of disease is statistically impor-
tant. According to these parameters, there is no significant dif-
ference between boys and girls.
Thus, having analyzed the medical records of the children,
we can say that the percentage of healthy babies is very low.
But the situation changes substantially during the first two years
of life: with most children, the diagnoses are dismissed by a
The statistics concerning the attachment of a child to its
mother during the first year of life (Vereshagina & Nikolaeva,
2009) show a small number of mothers with a high level of heal-
thy attachment. At the same time, we did not come across any
mothers who were not concerned about their children. This can
be easily explained since only those mothers who had a sincere
wish to learn about their relationship with their child could take
part in the study (Table 2).
Our data confirm earlier findings (Ainsworth, 1983; Booth-
Laforce et al., 2006) that the type of a mother’s attachment does
not change as a child grows older.
It is an extremely important fact that the higher the level of a
mother’s acceptance of her child, the greater the likelihood that
a diagnosis made at a maternity clinic will be dismissed (r =
0.31, p = 0.001). It goes without saying that if a mother accepts
her unhealthy child, this ensures that she will take good care of
it and will nurse it back to health. As it shows on Table 3 the
acceptance is only parameter of the attachment influencing on
the probability of child diagnosis dismissing. Using the regres-
sion analysis we have not found any influences for others pa-
Analysis of the results of our evaluation of emotional intelli-
gence shows the following: It is characteristic of most mothers
with children of up to two years of age to have a very low lever
of ability to understand and control their own and others’ emo-
tions; likewise, they have very low levels of interpersonal, in-
trapersonal and general emotional intelligence. None of the mo-
thers in the study displayed a very high level of emotional intel-
ligence. None of the parameters of emotional intelligence cor-
relates with child’s diagnosis dismissing. Results show that the
parameters of emotional intelligence are not the significant pre-
dictors of child’s diagnosis dismissing.
It seemed significant to describe the level of anxiety experi-
enced by mothers with children in their first two years of life
and its relation both to the particularities of reaction in emo-
tional situations and to the level of attachment and emotional
intelligence. The data, according to the results of the Spielber-
ger-Khanin questionnaire, are shown in Table 4. And in Ta-
ble 3 we could see that the level of the situational anxiety is a
significant predictor of child’s diagnosis dismissing: the more
the level the less the probability of the dismissing.
As there were few mothers with a high level of attachment, it
is impossible to statistically compare their results with the data
of other mothers. For this reason, we do not cite this data. It is,
however, possible to compare the data of mothers with average
and low levels of attachment.
From Table 5 it can be seen that mothers with children in the
second year of life and with an average level of attachment had
the lowest anxiety ratings. And it was mothers with a low level
of attachment who showed the highest levels of both personal
and situational anxiety. Perhaps it is anxiety that does not allow
mothers to fully savor the joy of motherhood. This anxiety can
be explained by the low level of understanding these mothers
have of others’—and of any—emotions (Table 5 ).
We have tried to find the mother’s psychological characteri-
stics which we could use as predictors of a child’s effective re-
habilitation after birth. We proposed that parameters of attach-
ment, emotional intelligence and anxiety could be these predic-
tors. If mother does not worry, she has high level of attachment
and emotional intelligence, and she could see the problems of
her child, communicate correctly about these problems to the
doctor and then carry into effect doctor’s instructions.
The number of diagnosis of children are given at a maternity clinic and at polyclinic (mean and SD).
Children in the first year of life Children in the second year of life
Total Girls Boys Total Girls Boys
The number diagnoses are given at a
maternity clinic 2.0 (1.1) 2.0 (1.1) 2.2 (1.0) 2.4 (1.5) 2.6 (1.7) 2.2 (1.3)
The number diagnoses are given at
polyclinic 1.2 (1.1) 1.2 (1.1) 1.2 (1.2) 0.6 (0.9)** 0.8 (0.9**) 0.7 (1.0)**
Note: *р < 0.05, **−р < 0.01, distinctions between children in the first and the second years of life.
A distribution of mothers on the levels of attachment (%).
Levels of attachment
Mother’s of children
High Mean Low Deprivation
Of its first year of life 2.6 41.8 55.6 0
Of children of its second year of life 4.8 40.2 55.0 0
E. NIKOLAEVA, V. MERENKOVA
Regression coefficient, R2 and one way ANOVA parameters of attach-
ment and anxiety effect on child’s diagnosis dismissing.
Predictor β p F R2
Acceptance 0.314 0.52 4.049 0.099
Situational anxiety −0.383 0.016 6.374 0.147
We have found that only two parameters- mother’s accep-
tance the child and her low level of situational anxiety could be
good predictors of the child’s health. We could explain this
result using two reasons. The health of the child in the first year
of life depends on the effective caring; the higher the level of
mother’s acceptance her child the higher the probability of
child’s diagnosis dismissing.
Thus, based on the results received according to three pa-
rameters for mothers with children in the first two years of life
—attachment, emotional intelligence and anxiety—interrela-
tions were found among them. It was shown that the lower the
levels of attachment and emotional intelligence, the higher the
level of anxiety.
But our results do not help us to answer the question what is
the initial course: high level of anxiety which lead to the low of
acceptance child or low acceptance lead to the high level of
anxiety. We hope that the high level of acceptance is the crucial
factor. But we need further investigation.
The results of our research allow us to make the following
1) Practically all of the children participating in the study
were given one or another diagnosis at birth (children in the
first year of life, 90 percent, and children in the second year, 96
percent). By the end of the first year, the diagnoses had been
dismissed by a neighborhood doctor for 40 percent of the chil-
dren, and in the second year, for 60 percent of the children. The
most common diagnoses given to children at birth were perina-
tal encephalopathy and motor disturbance syndrome.
2) There is no difference between mothers of children in the
first and second years of life with respect to levels of attach-
ment: 54 percent of the mothers in each group have a low level
of attachment, and 44 percent and 42 percent, respectively,
have an average level. Only 2 percent and 4 percent of the
A distribution of mothers on the levels of anxiety (%).
Levels of anxiety
Personal anxiety Situational anxiety
Mother’s of children
High Mean Low High Mean Low
Of its first year of life 52 40 8 28 64 8
Of children of its second year of life 58 40 2 20 62 18
The peculiarities of anxiety and emotional intelligence of mothers with different attachment level (mean and SD).
Mean level of attachment Low level of attachment
1 2 1 2
Situational anxiety 40.73 (7.11) 37.27 (6.33)* 40.33 (11.14) 44.51 (11.61)
Personal anxiety 47.01 (10.41) 41.73 (7.25)* 43.89 (9.03) 46.44 (7.47)
Understanding others’ emotions 13.77 (3.89) 15.91 (4.31)** 13.72 (3.11) 12.69 (3.36)
Controlling others’ emotions 13.23 (3.72) 13.36 (2.59) 11.94 (2.01) 13.81 (2.61)
Understanding one’s own emotions 13.09 (4.68) 13.77 (3.44) 13.61 (2.79) 12.81 (2.97)
Controlling one’s own emotions 8.77 (1.99) 8.82 (1.87) 7.94 (2.26) 8.63 (1.75)
Controlling expression 8.36 (3.17) 9.55 (2.87) 8.11 (2.78) 10.06 (2.69)
Interpersonal emotional intelligence 27.01 (6.11) 29.27 (6.44) 25.67 (3.96) 26.51 (3.46)
Intrapersonal emotional intelligence 30.23 (7.58) 32.14 (6.24) 29.67 (5.26) 31.51 (4.44)
Emotional understanding 26.86 (7.69) 29.68 (6.86)* 27.33 (5.05) 25.51 (4.65)
Controlling others’ emotions 30.36 (6.72) 31.73 (5.42) 28.01 (4.49) 32.51 (4.62)
Total emotional intelligence 57.23 (12.92) 61.41 (11.68) 55.33 (7.72) 58.01 (6.81)
Note: 1 and 2—The data for mothers of children of first and second years of their loves. Differences show for mothers of children the same years of lives; *р < 0.05, **−р <
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
E. NIKOLAEVA, V. MERENKOVA
mothers with children in the first and second years of life have
a high level of attachment. No mothers were found to suffer
from maternal deprivation.
3) A positive prognosis in relation to the children’s health
during the first year of life depends on the level of a mother’s
acceptance of her child; the higher the rating on the accep-
tance-non-acceptance scale, the healthier the child.
4) The probability of a child’s recovery during the first two
years of life cannot be predicted based on the mother’s ratings
for emotional intelligence.
5) The situational anxiety is a significant predictor of child’s
diagnosis dismissing; the higher the level of the anxiety the
lower the probability.
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