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Human nature, observed

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Science  02 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6375, pp. 510-513
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6375.510

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  • RE: Attachment and trauma in other long-term studies closer to home.
    • Nathan Moses Szajnberg, physician, psychoanalyst, emeritus
    • Other Contributors:
      • Henry Massie, child psychiatrist

    Dear Editor, Douglas Starr gives a comprehensive and well-deserved overview of the longitudinal Dunedin, New Zealand project, outlining Moffitt’s and Caspi’s contributions. While Starr cites the 1946 UK survey beginning in 1946, he overlooks two major longitudinal studies in the United States of psychological development from birth. Sroufe, Egeland and colleagues (completed a two-decade study of attachment in low-income mothers (The Development of the Person, 2009) and we (Massie and Szajnberg, Lives Across Time, 2008) completed a thirty-year study of multiple factors in development in a cohort of seventy-six infants from birth. Our study, for instance confirmed and elaborated the “accentuation” hypothesis of Dunedin: i.e. that earlier childhood problems foreshadowed adolescent adjustment (in girls for the Dunedin group). However, we had detailed films and observation of mothering (play and feeding) in the first year that suggested that difficulties in the mother-infant interaction (not simply “behavioral problems”) foretold adolescent problems and even difficulties at thirty in some children. Our work articulates the facilitating and troubling factors associated with both high and problematic outcome in early adulthood. For instance, we found that two or more childhood losses of attachment figures foretold a profound drop in functioning between eighteen and thirty (a sleeper effect). We add these two works for readers to learn what we have learned by studying infants thr...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.