Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

Document Type



Over the past several decades, women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers. This has led to the majority of infants and young children being cared for outside of the home by extra-familial caregivers. Research has shown the benefits that quality childcare can have on the developmental trajectories of children, as well as the detrimental effects that can be seen when children experience low quality care. Further, children are particularly vulnerable in the first year of life when they are establishing attachment bonds with their primary caregivers. With the long hours that many spend in the care of childcare workers, these teachers are likely serving as attachment figures for these infants. Identifying factors that contribute to quality care in childcare centers is essential to ensure the future well being of children. This study examined the relationship between infant teachers’ emotional characteristics, particularly their levels of anxiety and avoidance as they pertain to their adult attachment orientations and the quality of their interactions with the infants in their classrooms in observations using the CLASS-Infant. The study also examined the relationship between the teachers’ capacities for mentalization, as well as their personal beliefs about infant care, and the observed quality of interactions between them and the infants in their classrooms. 35 classrooms were included from two urban areas of Mississippi and Louisiana that contained 62 teachers. No clear pattern of association was found between the teachers’ emotional characteristics measured and scores on the CLASS observations. Challenges pertaining to observational studies in early childhood classrooms and implications for training and policy are discussed.



Committee Chair

Page, Timothy