September 2021 Spotlight, Patty Kuo, Ph.D

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Patty Kuo ( as our member in the spotlight. Dr. Kuo is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, College of Education and Human Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. 

1)      Can you write a couple sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 

Right now I am focused on investigating the developmental impacts of infant attachment security configurations to mothers and fathers. This is an extension of my previous research which has primarily focused on father-child relationships and fathering. My graduate advisor (Dr. Brenda Volling, University of Michigan) taught me the importance of family systems approaches and I am finding through my work that attachment, when investigated through a family systems context, is far more nuanced than the traditional dyadic approach.

b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field?

The Dagan & Sagi-Schwartz (2018) paper on attachment configurations is going to be a seminal work in this burgeoning area.

2)      A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other [understudied?] populations; d) practice or policy relevance. 

Attachment security has long been studied as a critical predictor of child adjustment and development. Most research supporting these findings has been conducted only on mothers, despite steady increases in fathers’ involvement in parenting across recent decades (McKelley & Rochlen, 2016). Even when fathers are included in attachment research, infant–father relationships are often analyzed independently from infant–mother relationships (Bretherton, 2010), which ignores the ecological structure of families and the interdependent nature of family relationships. Modern attachment theorists have proposed a network configuration model to explain attachment security (Dagan & Sagi-Schwartz, 2018). In the model, a configuration is defined as groupings based on having secure or insecure attachment to mother and father, resulting in four possible configurations (secure both, insecure both, secure to only mother, secure to only father). I analyzed attachment configurations in relation to infant cortisol reactivity (Kuo et al., 2019) and found some surprising results. Specifically, having a secure attachment to father and a simultaneous insecure attachment to mother was related to cortisol reactivity indicative of chronic stress that was not seen in the other attachment configurations. Why would a secure attachment to father in the absence of a secure attachment to mother be stressful? Because increased parental sensitivity predicts infant’s secure attachment with both mothers and fathers (De Wolff & van Ijzendoorn, 1997; Lucassen et al., 2011), it is likely that mothers were insensitive and fathers were sensitive in this configuration. But what could be stressful about having a sensitive father? We looked to sample characteristics: mothers were primary caregivers and fathers were secondary caregivers, showing that mothers were far more available (i.e., accessible) to the infant than fathers were. Infants use primary caregivers as sources of safety and reassurance regardless of attachment security status whereas infants look to secondary caregivers as supporters of exploration and learning (Umemura et al., 2013). This sensitivity/availability paradox may underlie our surprising results from the secure-to-father and insecure-to-mother group, and hence, the inspiration for my current research.

3)      What is your preferred contact email?

4)      A weblink you prefer to share?

My lab page:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *