Behaviour patterns in daily mother-child separations: Possible opportunities for stress reduction

Pnina S. Klein, Ravit R. Kraft, Cilly Shohet

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Scopus citations


    Despite the abundance of research on attachment and on the effects of separation, very little research examines the actual processes of separation occurring daily when mothers leave their children (age 6-18 months) in out-of-home group care. In the current study, this everyday process of separation was observed for three months (September-November), starting with the first day in daycare. Typical patterns of mother-child, mother-child-caregiver, mother-caregiver and child-caregiver interactions were identified, each including behaviours that could either relieve or aggravate stress. Separation processes initiated by the mother that included repeated patterns of ceremony and ritual were identified as reducing stress. In addition, infants and toddlers who cried more following separation received more attention distracting responses, whereas those who cried less received more empathic responses. More crying was observed when mothers remained to talk to the caregiver after separation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)387-396
    Number of pages10
    JournalEarly Child Development and Care
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Apr 2010

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The authors would like to thank the Harris Foundation and the Machado Chair for Cognitive Modifiability for supporting this study.


    • Adjustment to daycare
    • Infant mental health
    • Mother-infant separation
    • Mother-infant-caregiver interactions
    • Separation ceremonies


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