Sibling care in Zambia: Infant attachment in the context of multiple caregivers
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Parenting is one of the most significant features of any people’s culture (Harkness & Super, 1995) and across cultures, the operationalization of parenting and parenting practices differ. Against this background, this study was conducted to explore parenting and caregiving in Zambia, from the perspective of attachment theory. This study specifically sought to examine maternal and sibling caregiving and to examine the quality of attachments of the infant to the mother and to his/her older sibling. It also sought to examine the factors that predict maternal investment in terms of socio-emotional support, the provision of learning materials and involvement. The study was conducted in two phases. Phase one examined sib-care in Zambia and the Netherlands. Phase two examined infant-caregiver attachment and parenting investment in Zambia. To this effect, the following hypotheses were made. The first hypothesis was that sib-care is existent and occupies a significant portion of child rearing in Zambia and the Netherlands and that Zambian participants would perform more sib-care activities than their Dutch counterparts. The second hypothesis was that higher SES levels would be associated with more maternal socio-emotional and material investment and cognitive stimulation in the home. The third hypothesis, based on the universality and normativity hypotheses of attachment theory, was that that the infant-mother attachment construct in Zambia exists and the majority of children would be classified as securely attached to both their mothers and older siblings. The fourth hypothesis was that there would be no association between the infant-mother and infant sibling attachment i.e. children’s quality of attachment to their mothers is not expected to be similar to the quality of attachment to their siblings. Self-report and observational (both scales and video) data were collected to measure demographic, sib-care variables and parental investment and attachment variables, respectively. The results showed that sib-care is prevalent in both Zambia and the Netherlands and females performed more sib-care than boys. They further revealed that socio-economic, more than cultural variables are predictive of parental investment in different domains with higher socio-economic status predicting more parental investment. Finally the results showed that Zambian children do get attached (to both mother and sibling) and the majority appeared to be securely attached to both their mothers and siblings, a pattern similar to most African and Western norm samples, with some variations on specific classifications. As predicted, there was also no correspondence of attachment quality within the same family pairs (mother-infant and sibling-sibling). The findings of this study inspire the need for more empirical work to be conducted in the area of attachment and sib-care in the context of ‘normal’ families. There is also a need to develop parenting interventions that target family level structures to enhance parent child relationships. Finally, the need for the development and adaptation of local scientific tools is highlighted.
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