Attachment behaviors in autistic children

Marian Sigman*, Judy A. Ungerer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    120 Citations (Scopus)


    The social behaviors of 14 autistic children and 14 normal children of equivalent mental age were observed during a free-play situation as well as during separation from and reunion with their mothers and a stranger. As a group, the autistic children showed evidence of attachment to their mothers, directing more social behaviors and more physical contact to their caregivers than to the stranger during the reunion episodes. Within the autistic group, the children who showed an increase in attachment behaviors in response to separation and reunion demonstrated more advanced symbolic play skills than those autistic children who showed no change in attachment behaviors. One possible explanation may be that autistic children require more advanced levels of symbolic ability to form attachments to others than is necessary for the development of attachments in normal children.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)231-244
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 1984


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