The quality of maternal secure-base scripts predicts children's secure-base behavior at home in three sociocultural groups

Brian E. Vaughn, Gabrielle Coppola, Manuela Verissimo, Ligia Monteiro, José Antonio Santos, German Posada, Olga A. Carbonell, Sandra J. Plata, Harriet S. Waters, Kelly Bost, Brent McBride, Nana Shin, Bryan Korth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The secure-base phenomenon is central to the Bowlby/Ainsworth theory of attachment and is also central to the assessment of attachment across the lifespan. The present study tested whether mothers' knowledge about the secure-base phenomenon, as assessed using a recently designed wordlist prompt measure for eliciting attachment-relevant stories, would predict their children's securebase behavior, as assessed by observers in the home and summarized with the Attachment Q-set (AQS). In each of three sociocultural groups (from Colombia, Portugal, and the US), scores characterizing the quality of maternal secure-base narratives elicited using the word-list prompt procedure were internally consistent, as indicated by tests of cross-story reliability, and they were positively and significantly associated with the child's security score from the AQS for each subsample. The correlation in the combined sample was r(129) = .33, p < .001. Subsequent analyses with the combined sample evaluated the AQS item-correlates of the secure-base script score. These analyses showed that mothers whose stories indicate that they have access to and use a positive secure-base script in their story production have children who treat them as a "secure base" at home. These results suggest that a core feature of adult attachment models, in each of the three sociocultural groups studied, is access to a secure-base script. Additional results from the study indicate that cross-language translations of the maternal narratives can receive valid, reliable scores even when evaluated by non-native speakers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Attachment script representation task
  • Secure bare relationships


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