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The attachment working models concept: Among
other things, we build script-like representations
of secure base experiences
HARRIET S. WATERS & EVERETT WATERS
State University ofNew York atStony Brook, USA
Abstract
Mental representations are of central importance in attachment theory. Most often conceptualized
in terms of working models, ideas about mental representation have helped guide both attachment
theory and research. At the same time, the working models concept has been criticized as
overly extensible, explaining too much and therefore too little. Once unavoidable, such openness is
increasingly unnecessaryand athreat tothecoherenceofattachment theory.Cognitive and develop-
mentalunderstandingofmentalrepresentationhasadvancedmarkedlysinceBowlby’sday,allowingus
to become increasingly specific about how attachment-related representations evolve, interact, and
influenceaffect,cognition,andbehavior.Thismakesitpossibletobeincreasinglyspecificaboutmental
representations of attachment and securebase experience. Focusing on script-like representations of
secure base experience is a usefulfirst step in this direction. Here we define the concept of a secure
base script, outline a method for assessing a person’s knowledge/access to a secure base script, and
review evidence that script-like representations are an important component of the working models
concept.
Keywords: Attachment, script, working models
Introduction
OneofFreud’smostdaringhypotheseswasthenotion thatearlyexperienceisanimportant
influence on later development. In order to preserve this insight, John Bowlby
reconceptualized the nature of the child’s tie to its mother and replaced Freud’s ideas
about motivation and mental representation with concepts from cognitive psychology.
Bowlby discarded Freud’s imageof aclingy dependent infant, focused on drivereduction,
and replaced it with a view of infants as much more competent, inherently motivated to
exploration and mastery, and skilled atusing one or afew primary attachment figuresasa
securebase fromwhichtoexplore. Healsoborrowed fromcognitivepsychologythenotion
thatexperiencecanberepresented asa‘‘workingmodel.’’ Suchmodelsinfluencememory,
expectations, and responseavailabilityinsubsequentsocialinteractions(e.g.,Schank, 1982,
1999; Schank & Abelson, 1977).
In thelate1970s, theAinsworthStrangeSituationmadeitpossibletoconvenientlyassess
infants’ ability to use a primary caregiver as a secure base. This led to a great deal of
Correspondence:HarrietS.Waters,DepartmentofPsychology,SUNY-StonyBrook,StonyBrook,NewYork11794,USA.
E-mail:harriet.waters@sunysb.edu
Attachment & Human Development,
September 2006; 8(3): 185–197
ISSN1461-6734print/ISSN1469-2988online2006Taylor&Francis
DOI:10.1080/14616730600856016
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research, most supporting Bowlby’s ideas about the origins and organization of infant
attachment. Of course, early secure base experience leaves only sensorimotor traces; true
working models require formal mental representations. With no way to assess attachment
working models in adulthood, the first 20 years of attachment research focused almost
exclusively on infancy, and hypotheses about the importance of early experience for later
relationships wentuntested.
This changed with the development of the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George,
Kaplan, & Main, 1985; Main & Goldwyn, 1994), a true watershed event in attachment
study. It offered a means of assessing individual differences in adults’ conceptualizations
of their early relationship with parents. The subject’s narrative (often 20–30 single
spaced pages) is scored on almost two dozen scales, reflecting availability of early
memories, separation experiences, positive and negative attitudes toward the relationship,
defensiveness, passivity of speech, etc. In addition, the scorer assigns a single rating
reflecting the coherence (connectedness and believability) of the narrative. Subjects are
also classified as secure, insecure-dismissing, insecure-preoccupied, or unresolved with
respect to loss or abuse. These classifications are central to data analyses in most
research with the AAI.
TheAAI has been a major influence on attachment study, finallyallowing us to test the
hypothesis that infant attachment serves as a prototype for attachment working models in
adulthood. This key hypothesis has been confirmed in several studies using the Strange
Situation in infancy and follow-up 15–20 years later with the AAI (Waters, Merrick,
Treboux, Crowell,& Albersheim,2000).Ithasalsofacilitatedresearchonadultattachment
and its links to personality, marriage, and parenting (e.g., Grossmann, Grossmann, &
Waters, 2005; Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005).
Despite its profound influence on attachment study, the AAI presents a number of
difficulties.Onapracticallevel,theAAIisdifficultandexpensivetouse.Somuchsothatitis
primarily mastered and used by well-funded researchers already committed to Bowlby-
Ainsworth attachmenttheory. This limits the likelihood that keyideaswill beput tostrong
empiricaltestsandalsolimitstheimpactandrangeofinputstoattachmenttheoryfromother
domains of study. Of course, such practical difficulties have to be weighed against the
richness of the information obtained. Each interview yields a trove of biographical and
emotionallyladenmaterial.Buttheclassificationproceduredistillsthisrichnessandtexture
down to a very coarse taxonomy. Moreover, the criteria for each classification are highly
configural. Rather different factors can lead to the same classification. Also, given the
richness and texture of the AAI narrative, group and subgroup differences are multi-
dimensional and difficult to isolate and examine as distinct causal influences on affect,
cognition, and behavior.
More importantly, there is considerable distance between the AAI narrative and
underlying attachment representations. Theinterview providesa sampleof verbal behavior
fromwhichwemakeinferencesaboutthe‘‘goodness’’ofunderlyingmentalrepresentations.
Butthecontentandorganization oftheunderlyingrepresentationsisnotexplicitlymapped.
As a result, links to behavior remain correlational and the architecture of the underlying
representations, mechanismsof acquisitionandaccess, howtheyinfluenceaffect, cognition,
and behavior, and the mechanisms underlying stability and change remain speculative.
Simplyput, theAAI worksfar better than we cancurrentlyexplain. Whileitremainsuseful
as a broadband measure of the coherence of attachment representations, it isimportant to
begin examiningspecificmodes of attachmentrepresentation, their linkstoAAI narratives,
and their impact on affect, cognition, and behavior.
186
H. S. Waters & E. Waters
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Mental models
Two key constructs, the secure base phenomenon and attachment working models, play
pivotal roles in thelogic of Bowlby’s attachment theory. The theoryis only as coherent as
our understanding of these concepts and the relation between them. The secure base
concept is relatively well defined and implemented in behaviorally specific measures. We
also know a great deal about the caregiving antecedents of secure base behavior, stability,
andchange. Thetheoreticalunderpinningsoftheworking modelconceptarelessexamined
andlesssettled.AsHinde(1988)haspointedout,theworkingmodelsconceptisusedmore
often as a conceptual metaphor than in reference to specific cognitive structures.
Theidea thatearlyexperienceproduced enduring mentalrepresentationswasoneof the
key psychoanalytic insights that Bowlby sought to preserve by drawing on cognitive
psychology. Insearchof analternativeformulation, Bowlby(1969/1982)drewupon Craik’s
(1943) notion of mental models. Although now famously influential, Craik’s formulation
was at best an informal sketch. And thefirst modern usesof his idea (e.g., Johnson-Laird,
1983)focusedprimarilyonadhocmodelsdeployedinshort-termmemorytohelpinsolving
problems in formal logic, notat allthekind of representation needed toaccountfor effects
of early experienceand not nearly the full range of representational modalities.
Early attachment history (and subsequent revisions and elaborations) inevitably leaves
traces in multiple modes of representation, each with its own architecture, operating
characteristics, and impact on later affect, cognition, and behavior. Current cognitive
psychologyprovidesarichunderstandingofmanydifferentmodesof mentalrepresentation.
These range from non-verbal images (Pavio, 2006) and associations (Epstein, 1994;
Kihlstrom, 1987), toverbally mediated meaning structures (e.g., Kintsch, 1974) and event
representations (Nelson, 1986; Schank, 1982, 1999). Different modes of representation
have different operating characteristics and implications for developmental analysis. Inter-
preting theworkingmodelsconceptintermsof specificcognitivearchitectureswouldbean
important step toward theoretical coherence, developmental analysis, and more refined
assessment.
The secure base script
Bretherton (e.g., 1987, 1990) was the first to point out the relevance of work by Schank
(1982, 1999), Nelson (1986), and others on event schemas and scripts. These more
enduring cognitivestructuressummarizecommonalities (e.g., themain character(s),casual
chain of events, and resolution or ending) acrossa class of events. For example, Schank&
Abelson (1977) suggestedthatexperience visitingvariousdining establishmentsresultsina
‘‘restaurant script’’ (look at menu, order food, eat, pay, leave). Such cognitive structures
generateexpectationsand helpprepareandorganizeongoingbehavior(e.g.,Sirigu, Zalla,&
Pillon, 1995.) Scriptsalso havemotivational significance, not becausethey have thepower
to impel behavior but because activating mental representations of goals and goal seeking
behaviorslowersthethresholdtobehavior (e.g.,Bargh,1996).Importantly, scriptsalsoplay
an importantroleinreconstruction andretrieval processeswhen we recall past experiences
(e.g., Kuebli & Fivush, 1994).
Thesecure baseconceptiscentral tothelogic of Bowlby’sattachment theory(Waters &
Cummings, 2000). Following Bretherton’s suggestion, we have proposed that an indi-
vidual’s history of secure base support is represented in memory as a secure base script
(e.g., Waters& Rodrigues-Doolabh, 2001). If securebasesupport has been consistent and
Attachment working models concept
187
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coherent, thescriptshouldbecomplete, wellconsolidated,andreadilyaccessibleinrelevant
situations.If securebasesupporthasbeeninconsistent,incomplete,or ineffective,thescript
should beless well configured and possibly less accessible.
Our definition of thesecurebasescriptisbasedon Bowlby-Ainsworthattachmenttheory
and several generations of observational research on secure base behavior. According to
Bowlby, ahistoryof reliable and effectivesecurebasesupportiseventuallygeneralized asa
expectation that your primarycaregiver (indeed, securebase figuresin general) will always
be there for you, and that they will be wise enough and powerful enough to save you and
restore balance to your ongoing activities. The key elements of the secure base script are
outlined in Table I.
Individuals who have had consistent and coherent secure base support in infancy and
childhood will have knowledge of this secure base script and ready access to it in all their
secure base interactions. Furthermore, the script will be activated by secure base relevant
eventsandgoals(Bargh,1996).Script-relatedresponseswillbereadiedwheneverthescriptis
accessed,thepersonwillexpectscript-consistentbehaviorfromattachmentfigures(Schank&
Abelson, 1977), and they will mark events and experiences that violate script-based
expectations (Schank, 1982, 1999). Once established, the secure basescript will underpin
generalizedexpectationsaboutcloserelationships,evenifaspecificpartnerdoesnotbehave
asexpected. Mostimportantly, fromthepointof viewofassessment, theywill usethescript
to organize attachment related narratives and selectively retrieve script consistent events
(Nelson, 1986). In contrast, individuals who have not experienced consistent secure base
supportwillnotorganizeandconsolidateasecurebasescriptalongthelinesoutlinedabove.
Insteadthey will havedifferent or lessconsistent expectationsinsecurebaseinteractions.
In brief, knowledge and access to the secure base script should make an important
contribution to the smoothness of secure base interactions in childhood and beyond and
should be accessibletoempirical analysis in appropriate narrative production tasks. Given
theirimpactonsocial perception, expectations, and memory, nottomentionself-definition
and goalstructures(e.g., Carver & Schrier, 1990;Epstein, 1994; Horowitz, 1988; Lazarus,
1991),studyingscript-likerepresentationsofsecurebaseexperienceshouldhavefar-ranging
and fundamental implications for our understanding of attachment related cognitions,
emotions, and behavior.
Assessingscript knowledge and access
The prompt-word outline method
Script-like organization of familiar experiencesis implicit knowledge. Neither children nor
adults can reliably report how they have represented the temporal–causal structure of
TableI. Key elementsofthesecure basescript.
1. Achild (orinfant)and mother (or twoadultattachmentpartners) areconstructivelyoccupied.
2. They areinterruptedby aneventor anotheractor. Theinfant(orone adult) isdistressed.
3. There isa bidfor help.
4. The bidfor help isdetected andhelpisoffered.
5. The offerofhelpisaccepted.
6. The helpiseffective in overcomingthedifficulty.
7. The helpalsoincludeseffective comfortingand affectregulation.
8. The pairreturn to (or initiate new)constructiveinteraction.
188
H. S. Waters & E. Waters
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repeatedexperiences.Nonetheless, suchorganizationisquiteapparentwhentheyareasked
to produce narrativepassages. Itis only necessary to obtain a self-produced narrative that
hasappropriatecontent, staysontopic, hassufficient content and elaboration to reveal the
underlying script or schema structure, and is not unmanageably long. This is greatly
facilitated by the useof prompt-word outlines.
Theprompt-word outline method wasinitially developed byHarriet Waters for research
onthedevelopmentofproseproductionandrecallskills(e.g.,Waters,1981;Waters& Hou,
1987). Aprompt-word outlineconsistsof astorytitleand12–14promptsword, printedin
three columns on a single sheet of paper (approximately 18 point type; 3–4 words per
column). Although the prompt words are selected to loosely suggest a prototypical
storyline, subjectsarefreetousethewords in anywaythey like.Thesubjectisgivenupto
2 minutes to review the words and formulate a story line. Then, beginning with the
words in the left-most column, the person produces a story that includes each of the
prompts word.
The first few words suggest a setting and some initial actors. The next few suggest key
content and activities. And the last few words suggest some sort of story conclusion. The
promptsword provideonlyageneralframeworkfor apassage.Theyarenottryingtoelicita
specificprototypicalor ‘‘best’’story.Thesamesetof wordscan elicitanynumber of equally
well-formedstories.Usingpromptwordsetsensuresthatmostsubjectswillproduceatleast
a basic passage. At the same time it provides practical boundaries on topic and passage
length. In order to obtain spontaneous content and organization, the passages are always
taperecordedrather thanwritten.Thisisan importantprocedurebecausewhen writing we
have time, indeed we are taught, to edit our thoughts to a greater extent than possible or
necessary whenspeaking. Itisalso useful tominimizeindividual differencesinwriting skill
and style.
In our workon attachment representations, we have constructeda wide range of prompt
word sets that(to mostpeople) implysecurebaseinteractions. Thefirstfew prompt words
indicatetheactors(parentandchildortwoadults).Subsequentwordspointtosometypeof
constructiveinteraction,aninterruption,distress,andresolutionincludedinthesecurebase
script. Subjectswhoknow and havegoodknowledge of and accesstothesecurebasescript
produce stories organized around this script.
The research reported in this volume employed four secure base prompt word sets and
twonon-securebase(neutral) prompt wordsets. Twoof thesecurebaseprompt wordsets
(Baby’s Morning, Doctor’s Office) involve mother–child interactions. Two (Jane & Bob’s
Camping Trip, Sue’s Accident) involve adult–adult interactions.
Thetwo additionalpromptword sets(Trip to the Park, Afternoon Shopping) are based on
familiaractivitiesthatdonotordinarilyentailsecurebaseinteractions.Theseareincludedin
order toprovidediscriminantvalidityvisavistrait-likedifferencesin storyscriptednessand
coherence. Typical passagesarebetween 150and 300words.
Narratives produced using secure base prompt word sets are scored on a 7-point scale
indicatingtheextenttowhichthepassageisorganizedaroundthesecurebasescript. Thisis
easilyrecognized byscorerstrainedtorecognizeexplicitorimpliedsecurebasestructure
1,2
.
The scale points range from ‘‘Extensive secure base script organization with substantial
elaboration’’ to ‘‘No secure base script content is apparent; passage is primarily a list of
events.’’Thelowestscore(‘‘1’’)isreservedforpassagesinwhichthepromptswordareused
in a completely idiosyncraticway, with no secure base content (e.g., thepassage takes the
point of view of a bird watching from above or the story is entirely about how the mother
managestofind her wayto thedoctor’soffice, bothvery improbableapproachesto Doctor’s
Office promptword set).
Attachment working models concept
189
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Scoring differsfrom thatof theAAI in severalrespects. Mostnoticeably, passagescan be
scored almost as quickly as they can be read. Even difficult passages require only brief
minutesrereadingandparsing.Second,thescoringisbasedonstructureratherthancontent.
Thatis,attentionisfocusedentirelyonindicationsofsecurebasescriptuse(seeTableI).But
thedetailsof languageuse(e.g., passivityof speech, tense,errors), believabilityof thestory
(theyareall pretend), stateof mind inferences, andpsychodynamicinterpretations, or even
frankly insensitiveor conflicted soundingcontent, playnorolein thescoring.
TableIIpresents asamplesecurebaseprompt-word outlinealongwithschematicstories
constructed to illustrate the difference between secure base scripted and less scripted but
nonethelesswell organizednarratives. AppendixA contains all of theprompt-wordoutlines
used in this volume. Appendix Bcontains examplesof full-length narrativeswith different
degrees of secure base scriptedness.
Althoughbothstoriesareof similar lengthandpresentpositiveinteractions, onlythefirst
isorganized around the securebase script. Note that thedifferencebetween the subjects is
notmotivationorintentiontotellasecurebaserelatedpassage.Ifthesubjectknowsandhas
access to the secure base script, script related beliefs and expectations are activated and
guide the task of organizing the prompts word into a passage. Subjects whose stories are
clearlyorganizedaroundasecurebasescriptreportthatthepromptswordclearly‘‘callout’’
for this kind of story. Others simply do not see the secure base implication, even across
several sets of secure base scripted prompts word.
The prompt-word outline procedure lends itself to a number of research designs and
questions that are largely out of reach with other methods:
1. Constructing distinct but parallel prompt word sets allows multiple independent
assessments. This allows us to increase reliability by aggregating scriptedness scores
acrossseveralparallelpromptwordsets. Theavailabilityof multipleprompt-wordsets
alsomakesiteasytoensurethatresultsarenotspecifictoaparticularsetof materials.
Itisalsomakesitpossibletoavoidcontaminationbyusing differenttestmaterialsand
in repeated measures and designs.
2. A recurring problem in AAI-type assessments is the inability to disentangle con-
tributionsandexpectationsof mother vs. father. Thisproblem iseasilyresolved using
TableII. Baby’sMorning.
mother
hug
teddy bear
baby
smile
lost
play
story
found
blanket
pretend
nap
Narrativewithclearsecurebasescriptstructure
Amotherandbabywereplayingonemorning.Motherwouldhideunderablanketandthenjumpoutandthebaby
wouldsmileandhugherandthendothesamething.Thentheyreadastory.Andthenthebabywantedtoplaywith
histeddybearbutitwaslostandhegotupset.ButMotherfounditandsaid‘‘Hereitis.He’sok.’’Andthebabywas
happyand they played somemore andthenthebabytookanap.
Narrativelackingsecurebasescript structure
Amotherwaswatchingherbabyplaywithablanketinhiscrib.Hewouldsmileandhugtheblanket.Afterawhile,
themotherwantedtoreadhimastory.Sheknewhewastoolittletounderstandbutshelikedsittingwithhimand
histeddybearandpretendingtoreadtothem.Buttodaytheteddybearwaslost.Andbythetimeshefoundit,the
babywasalready takinga nap.Sothey didn’thavea story today.
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H. S. Waters & E. Waters
separateprompt-word setsthatrefer tomeand mymother or meand myfather. It is
alsoeasytodevelopsecurebaseprompt-word setsinvolvingnon-parental attachment
figures such as teachers, mentors, or therapists.
3. As Bowlby pointed out, episodic and semantic memory representations of early
experience can be quite different. The same individual can remember specific acts
of insensitivity or even abuse and yet hold a generally positive representation of
the same parent. Such distinctions cannot be disentangled in the AAI but are easily
sorted out using relationship specific (first person; me and my child or me and my
spouse) vs. generalized (third person; a mother and child or a husband and wife)
prompt sets.
4. We can also construct prompt-word sets specific to parent–child vs. adult–adult
relationships. This ishelpfulinresearch onthehypothesisthatexperience in parent–
child relationships establishes a prototype that influences secure baserelationshipsin
adulthood.
5. The prompt word sets and thescriptedness scoring proceduresareeasilyadapted for
use in differentfamily and cultural contexts.
Results
The notion that attachment representations include script-like representations of early
secure base experience is only a hypothesis. In a series of recent studies, we have looked
into (1) structure of such representations, and into links between (2) script knowledge
and AAI coherence, (3) maternal script knowledge and infant Strange Situation
classifications, (4) the presence of script-like secure base representations in a variety of
cultures, and (5) mother–child interactions co-construction interactions that support
script construction. We have also used the prompt-word outline method to examine the
developmentandintegrationofattachmentrepresentationsinadolescenceandinmentoring
relationships.
One of the key advantages of the prompt-word outline method is that it allows us to
address questionsaboutthestructure andorganizationof attachmentrepresentations. One
of the first issues we addressed concerned the generality versus specificity of secure base
representations. Isthereasingle broadlygeneralizedsecurebasescript,or areparent–child
and adult–adult-type relationships represented differently? Waters & Rodrigues-Doolabh
(2001)addressedthisin acommunitysampleof adultsbylookingatthecorrelationsamong
script knowledge scores from mother–child prompt word sets and adult–adult prompt
word sets, and non-secure base materials. Neither mother–child nor adult–adult scores
were significantly correlated with the scriptedness of non-secure base passages (see
footnote 2), indicating that the prompt-word outline method is not simply assessing a
general cognitive ability or narrative production skill.
Scores from mother–child prompt word sets were highly correlated (r¼.80–.90), as
were scores from adult–adult prompt word sets. In addition, correlations 4.50 indicated
that a common secure base script is relevant to both types of relationship. This is an
important result consistent with the notion that infant–mother and adult–adult relation-
shipsaresimilar in kind.
In further research on the relevance of script-like attachment representations to current
attachment theory, Waters & Rodrigues-Doolabh, (2001) looked at links between secure
basescriptknowledge and AAI coherence. Theresultsindicatethat, in acommunityadult
sample, script knowledge highly correlated with AAI coherence (r¼.50–.60). Moreover,
the correlations were comparable with mother–child and adult–adult prompt word sets.
Attachment working models concept
191
In addition to demonstrating the relevance of script knowledge to current attachment
theory, this is very useful information about the secure base relevance of the AAI.
Indeed, correlations with secure base script knowledge seems a useful and easily
implemented check on the comprehension and secure base relevance of AAI interviews
across ageand in different samples and cultures.
Two measures can be substantially correlated and yet share few, if any, of the same
correlates. With this in mind, Tini, Corcoran, Rodrigues-Doolabh, & Waters (2003)
examined links between maternal secure base script knowledge and infant Strange
Situation classifications. Scoresfromseveralmother–child and adult–adult passageswere
averaged to yield a single reliable estimate of maternal script knowledge. When these
were dichotomized, script scores 4 (at least some evidence of secure base scriptedness)
versus54 (no evidence of secure base script use), concordance with secure–insecure
Strange Situation classification was comparable to that summarized in van IJzendoorn’s
meta-analysisof AAI–StrangeSituationconcordance(vanIJzendoorn, 1995). Demonstrat-
ing that script knowledge and AAI coherence are not only correlated but share important
correlates provides important evidence of the relevanceof secure base script knowledge to
current attachment theory and research. It also strengthens the claim that script-like
representations of the secure base phenomenon are an important component of what are
generically referred to asattachment representations or working models.
Wecannottakefor granted thatadultsinother culturesorganize or representtheir close
relationshipalongthesamelinesasadultsinWesterncultures.Working withtheNewYork
Attachment Consortium, Rodrigues-Doolabh, Wais, Zevallos, and Rodrigues (2001) and
Rodrigues-Doolabh, Zevallos, Turan, & Green (2003) asked adult women from a wide
rangeof cultures to produce storiesfrom secure base prompt-word outlines. The cultures
included Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Turkey, United Arab Emirites, and Peru. Prompt word
setswereadapted in severalcasestobeappropriatetotherespectivecultures(e.g.,camping
isnota usual male–female activity for youngadultsintheUAE, thispromptword setwas
replaced with‘‘The Lost Purse’’).
Results indicated that within each of these cultures, script knowledge scores were
comparabletothose in US samples mentioned above. In addition, thecorrelationsamong
andbetweenscoresbasedonmother–childandadult–adultpromptword setsweresimilar
tothoseinUSsamples.Althoughawiderrangeofculturesshouldbesampled,theseresults
suggest that script-like representation of secure base experiences is not unique to adults
living in middle-class, Western, industrial societies. As attachment theory predicts, secure
base useand support are important themesacross a wide rangeof cultures.
Finally, itisimportanttorecognizethat organized mentalrepresentationsare not simply
the passive residue of experience. Active construction and elaboration are also important.
Accordingly, Guttmann-Steinmetz, Elliott, Steiner, & Waters (2003) have examined links
between maternal secure base script knowledge and co-construction of securebase themes
during story telling. Mothers were asked to help their preschool children tell stories
suggested by a series of picture prompts. Separate sets of picture prompts suggested
affectively positive and negative story themes. Mothers were tested in advance on the
AAI and on secure base script knowledge. The interactions were video recorded and
transcribed and scored for sensitivity to signals, cooperation versus interference with the
child’s efforts, affect regulation, creating a supportive co-construction context, and
supporting content elaboration.
Resultsindicated thatboththeAAI andscriptknowledgeweresignificantly relatedtothe
mothers’ effectively helping the children construct a story from the picture prompts,
elaborate on the picture prompt content, and relate the stories to their own experience.
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H. S. Waters & E. Waters
This was most evident with the negative picture prompt sets. These interactions are
examples of the ways in which maternal attachment representations contribute to cross
generationconsistencyinattachmentsecurity. AlthoughcorrelationwithAAIcoherenceare
useful and important, it is easier to see and investigate the mechanisms underlying co-
construction interactions when the mothers’ competence is described more specifically in
terms of script knowledge. This is not to say that script knowledge is the only important
mechanism.Awiderangeofcognitive,defensive,andexperiencespecificfactorsarelikelyto
contribute as well to such interactions. These are easier to appreciate when the effects of
script knowledgecan be measured and controlled.
Conclusion
The working models concept has played an important role in attachment theory and
research and it will continue to do so. Having moved productively to the level of repre-
sentation,itisnowusefulfor theoryandresearchtomovetothelevelofgreaterspecificityin
assessing attachmentrepresentations. The securebasescriptconceptand the prompt-word
outline method are promising steps in this direction. The articles in this special issue
demonstrate that the procedures we have developed work well in a variety of laboratories
and are flexible enough to addressa varietyof new research questions.
Acknowledgement
ThisresearchwassupportedbytheCenterfor MentalHealthPromotionandtheNewYork
Attachment Consortium.
Notes
1 As scripts represent connected temporal–causal sequences, they are learned more or less as wholes,
notpiecemeal elementby element. Thus, it is not necessary thateach ofthe elements in Table I be explicitly
mentioned in the passage. Explicit or implied use of several secure base elements is sufficient evidence to
score the person asfamiliar with the secure base script. Asin the Strange Situation, AAI, or typical attach-
mentbehaviorscoring,onelooksforconvergingindicationsratherthan drawingstronginferencesfromisolated
details.
2 Non-secure base passages are scored on a 1–7 scale indicating the extent to which the passage is organized
aroundthenon-securebasescriptused togeneratethe prompt-wordoutline. Forexample,apassageorganized
aroundtheAfternoonShoppingscriptwouldreferto(orimply)travelingtotheshoppingareawithafriend,looking
atvariousitemson sale, makingsomepurchases, becomingtired,snacking, andreturninghome.
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