Date Thesis Awarded

12-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Danielle Dallaire

Committee Members

Christine Porter

Brian Kreydatus

Abstract

The image of a child’s drawing of his or her family would be familiar to many, perhaps displayed on the kitchen fridge with a magnet or kept as a treasured item by the child’s parent or loved one. Children draw frequently both in school and at home, depicting a vast range of scenes, including what they see in their surrounding environment. Because children’s drawings are so easy to procure and can be found in a variety of contexts and cultures, they have been validated as a helpful assessment tool in a number of psychological studies involving attachment theory.

The field of developmental psychology has studied attachment theory extensively over the past several decades. Attachment is defined as the quality of the bond between an individual and an attachment figure, typically a child and parent or other caregiver. The nature and quality of this bond in childhood is important to the individual’s wellbeing, and has been linked over the years with different parenting behaviors, a variety of externalizing and internalizing behaviors in children, their school performance, and their attachment behaviors later in life. In light of this, the current study examines what children’s drawings of their families can tell us about the bond existing between them and their mothers. How could the behaviors of the mother influence the child’s drawing of the family? Could a family drawing help researchers and clinicians gain more understanding and meet the needs of children who are developing typically, as well as those who may require more intervention and support? What are the potential moderators of these attachment security representations?

This thesis will focus on the study of attachment theory within the field of developmental psychology in the hopes of expanding upon this body of knowledge and how it attempts to answer these questions. Attachment literature primarily examines the bond between a child and an attachment figure. Historically, the mother-child bond has been studied the most extensively, and the literature outlined here and the current study center on this highly influential relationship. This thesis will begin by discussing attachment theory and its origins, and how attachment is typically assessed and measured in early to middle childhood. Next, it will highlight the use of family drawings as a measure of attachment representations in childhood, and its role in the current study. The importance of attachment classifications in early and middle childhood are examined, followed by maternal behaviors that have been linked with different attachment styles. Lastly, this thesis will examine the role of child age and gender as potential moderators of school-aged child attachment representations.

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