Cultural Attachment Theory - How children form relationships in three cultural contexts in Costa Rica

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Open Access logo originally created by the Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Title: Cultural Attachment Theory - How children form relationships in three cultural contexts in Costa Rica
Authors: Schmidt, Wiebke Johanna
ORCID of the author:
Thesis advisor: Prof. i.R. Dr. Heidi Keller
Thesis referee: Prof. Dr. Mariano Rosabal-Coto
Prof. Dr. Simone Pika
Abstract: Attachment theory originates in a unique historical and cultural context, yet its assumptions are considered universal. A Euro-American middle-class pattern of caregiving and early relationship formation has quickly been regarded the single pathway for optimal development and the only conceptual lens to study relationships worldwide, increasingly being applied in non-Western contexts and to cultural minorities in Western immigration states. The purpose of this study is to revise and expand the monocultural assumptions of attachment theory by examining early attachment development in three cultural contexts in Costa Rica: Urban middle-class San José, rural Guanacaste, and rural indigenous Bribri Talamanca. Using an ethnographic and culture-conscious approach, semi-structured caregiver interviews, ethnographic observations, and recording of videos and photographs were conducted with 30 families per sample with a child between 6 and 28 months of age. Results revealed profound differences in the size of caregiver and attachment networks, the roles and conceptions of caregivers and attachment figures, type and context of caregiver-infant interactions, and the ways and modes through which children form attachments. While the San José sample resembled Western middle-class families in their caregiving networks and beliefs, children in Guanacaste and Bribri Talamanca showed larger networks, however differently composed. In both rural samples, the mother did not necessarily function as the primary caregiver, and children learned to form close relationships with multiple caregivers and the extended family from an early age. Further, there is evidence that not only sensitive caregiving is the main entry to attachment, but primary care, such as feeding, can also serve as an important attachment mechanism. These findings suggest that there is more variety in attachment patterns than attachment theory implies and promotes. It is argued that attachment has not only the function of providing security, but also serves as a platform for cultural learning and is therefore culturally specific in nature. The study highlights the need for culturally conscious attachment research and a shift in practice toward more inclusive and less normative approaches to cultural differences in attachment development and caregiving.
Subject Keywords: Frühkindliche Bindung; Ethnographie; Costa Rica; Kulturpsychologie
Issue Date: 14-Sep-2023
License name: Attribution 3.0 Germany
License url:
Type of publication: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Appears in Collections:FB08 - E-Dissertationen

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
thesis_schmidt.pdfPräsentationsformat1,71 MBAdobe PDF

This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons