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Transcript of Attachment Theory
Criticised by Kleinians and Freudians for focusing too much on the external events/life, and physical absence (human mechanism). Narrow view of science 'what could be measured'- negates unmeasurable worlds of phantasy & internal world phenomena (emotions). (Holmes 2014: xviii). Tame terminology besides words such as 'greed' and 'envy'... (Gomez, 1997: 170).
Main focus on maternal deprivation. Post-war women were encouraged back to the home, nurseries were closed. Theory of maternal deprivation fostered guilt toward women wanting to work. Strong feminist lobby against him.
"All possible shades of experience, of relational expectations and emotional modes, are reduced one or other variety of attachment pattern, offering a meagre framework for understanding the myriad neurotic an psychotic processes and patterns in human beings" (Gomez 1997: 171).
Many psychologists propose no primary or secondary attachments - multiple models of attachment and the combination of these form the one working internal model (Rutter 1995).
'Attachment parenting' is a trend... and it has a fair bit of opposition! What about the mothers needs? Some babies just have more difficult temperaments?
John Bowlby - a brief timeline: formative years, father of Attachment Theory
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory: influences, theoretical context, 'A Secure Base'
Bowlby's Internal Working Model
Mary Ainsworth's 'The Strange Situation & Attachment Styles
a story of attachment
Bowlby's Internal Working Model
Following Ainsworth’s research Bowlby intensified his research on the effects of separation, and subsequently the effects of mourning in children.
The ethological approach shows that separation from caregiver is problematic and causes fear and trauma.
Threats of abandonment of a child often used as a means of control is a terrifying experience create intense anxiety and anger in older children and adolescents.
Previous theories neglected to see the real power of these external events on children's emotions
Bowlby's research into separation led to significant policy changes: closing of children's homes, parents visiting children in hospitals, growth of social services and foster care promoting a secure base for looked after children
1907 - 1990. Upper-middle class background. Father surgeon to Royal family "largely absent...nurses and servants ran the household and cared for the children...sister described atmosphere as joyless' - summer holidays warmer picture of family" (Gomez 1997: 151).
Boarding school, joined Navy (disliked due to intellectual limitations) - convinced his father to allow him to study medicine.
Following death of his father worked in school for disturbed children with whom he identified a talent to communicate and support. After identifying a relationship between disruptive behavior and disruptive early life in children - decided to train as a psychoanalyst.
Married with four children - 'replicated his fathers distance' (Gomez 1997: 152).
Entered into pyschoanalytical society during period of the 'controversial discussions' between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. Bowlby 'steered a course between them' (Holmes, 2014: xvii).
For Bowlby AF & MK claims lacked empirical evidence. Bowlby was interested in the raising the scientific status of psychoanalysis - importance of empirical research to inform therapy!
Worked as army psychiatrist during WW2.
father of Attachment Theory
Bowlby's proposition and diversion/derision from the intrapsychic worlds of AF and MK's psychoanalysis: the importance of the role of environment in origins of neurosis; 'importance of external relationships and events' (Gomez, 1997: 152). Continual hostility from Kleinians.
Research invitation with homeless children by World Health Organization (WHO) and later observations of children separated from their parents provided evidence of 'importance of environment as a determinant of pathology' (Holmes, 2014: xxi); importance role of mother
Whilst deputy chair of Tavistock clinic set up 'Department for Children and Parents' focusing on research and social policy published ‘Maternal Care and Mental Health’ in 1951 - influential publication changing the way that children were looked after in institutional care.
Main ideas were developed by Mary Ainsworth in the 1970s - 'the strange situation' experiments examining toddlers attachment responses, and formulation of attachment styles.
Described as very 'English' in his reserve and empiricism a 'nineteenth century Darwinian liberal' (Rycroft in Holmes, 2014: xvii). 'Intriguing mixture of pompousness and sensitivity, shyness an arrogance, protocol and idiosyncrasy' (Gomez, 1997: 153)
Legacy: 'developmental psychology' - greater focus on trauma and relationships in therapy, and how children are looked after in social care. Focus on the importance of the home!
"There is a strong link between the kinds of attachment patterns found in infancy and the narratives the people tell about themselves several years later on.
Put briefly, securely attached children tell coherent stories about their lives, however difficult they have been.
Insecurely attached children, by contrast, have much greater difficulty with narrative competence, either dismissing the past or remaining bogged down in it, and in neither case are they able to talk objectively or in ways that are emotionally apposite.
The therapeutic implications of this suggests that effective therapy, like good parenting, provides the security and space within which a healing narrative can begin to emerge."
(Holmes, 2014: xxii)
1. Ethology - Neo-Darwinism: biological study of animal behaviour. Inspired by work of Lorenz and Harlow. Harlow’s investigations with monkeys demonstrated parenting not just about feeding (behavioural) but the qualities of attachment - protection, survival, comfort, support...
2. Departure / critique of drive/phase theory and intra-psychic world of Object Relations - focus on drives, infantile sexuality and internal world dangers negates importance of phenomenological lived-experience of relationships, and/to external world (environment).
Primary significance of parent-infant bond - attention to 'livedness' of attachment between infant and primary caregiver as psychological bond in its own right - not a secondary product of drives, infant sexuality or intra-psychic conflict (Holmes, 2014: 49).
"The young child's hunger for his mothers love and presence is as great as his hunger for food...Attachment theory provides a language in which the phenomenology of attachment experiences is given its full legitimacy. Attachment is a primary motivational system..."
The Influence of primary caregiver on
successful attachment: 'A Secure Base'
A sensitive attachment figure is attuned to child’s behaviours and needs, responds appropriately, consistently, with good proximity encouraging positive attachment; creates 'A Secure Base' - a safe 'place' from which to explore the world / return to when they feeling threatened or needing support. In these terms Attachment leads to independence rather than dependence.
If the attachment figure has experienced insufficient attachment themselves (blueprint) or a negative birth experience - this could affect bonding (proximity and response) with infant, lead to lack of a Secure Base and therefore an insecure attachment to carer...
Evolutionary - attachment has evolved from 'survival behaviour.'
Innate (biological vs behavioural) - infants have innate drive to become attached to primary caregiver - "the relationship exists in its own right and has a key survival function of its own, namely protection" (Bowlby, 2005: Kindle, L2167).
Spatial (environmental) theory - literally and metaphorically "when I am close to my loved one I feel good, when I am far away I am anxious, sad or lonely...via achievement of proximity, [attachment is] a relaxed state in which one can begin 'to get on with things', pursue one's projects, and explore the world 'out there', and the inner world of feelings"
(Holmes 2014: 53).
Theory of 'developmental pathways' to replace phases of development (Bowlby, 2005: Kindle, L2157).
Our primary attachments figure influence the development of our personality, and our attachment styles in relationships with others...
Attachment behaviour is a lifelong continuity informing personality.
Mary Ainsworth - ‘The Strange Situation’
A Comparison of Object Relations
& Attachment Theory
A Secure Base
"Within the attachment framework the concept of working model of an attachment figure is in many respects equivalent to, and replaces, the traditional psychoanalytic concept of internal object."
(Bowlby, 2005: Kindle, L2431)
The development of attachment system & phases of secure development:
An organized system - goal of infant is keeping of proximity / accessibility to a attachment figure.
(0-6 months) orientation and pattern recognition - mirroring & appropriate primary carer responsiveness key determinant of quality of attachment.
(6 months - 3 years) attachment proximity and secure base is goal - child should develop the cognitive capacity to keep attachment figure in mind when not present.
(9 months +) majority of infants respond to being left with a strange person by protest and crying, prolonged fretting and rejection of a stranger;
infant is becoming capable of representation
working model of her attachment figure is becoming available to her for purposes of comparison during her absence and recognition after return
develops a working model of herself through interaction with caregivers.
(Bowlby, 2005: Kindle, 2913-2197 & Holmes, 2014: 59-63)
goal: environmental homesostasis & self-other schemata
Working Model vs Internal Objects - challenges the Object Relations focus on intra-psychic > focus/importance of empirical research of primary carer-infant relationship.
Phenomenological: security of attachment is an interpersonal, interactive phenomenon.
Working models of attachment are ingrained cognitive structures - influence lifelong personality structuring and future attachments...
Updating model - developmental via relational-experience-to-attachment-figure.
Secure attachment and positive working model can be obstructed due to defensive exclusion and inconsistent experience in relating-to-attachment-figure.
Bowlby observed that whatever primary caregiver fails to see in child, the child can fail to see in themselves.
Change is always possible, even in insecurely attached children - however, the older the child the more difficult...
Significant contributor to Attachment Theory
Researched the role of parent in determining how a child develop sin 'The Strange Situation'
Developed a set of ‘Attachment Styles’ following the observational research of 1 year old infants and their mothers
how they interacted and played
how they responded to brief periods of separation
reaction to being reunited
In 'The Strange Situation' these children are upset when the mother leaves, and comforted on her return. The children play happily soon after return.
Secure Attachments: primary carers were found to be happy to play with child, responding to the child’s signals, well attuned to child's needs.
Secure infants are likely to generally have positive interactions, ability to separate and explore and seeks comfort from parents. At age 6 securely attached child is likely to have good concentration, confidence, and communication skills.
As adults - likely to have a good sense of self, experience good lasting relationships, able to seek support and discuss feelings.
There are two main types:
2. Insecure (anxious)
(3 x subdivisions)
Relationship with caregiver maintained
More severe pathology - significant issues with relationship
All of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organised as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figure(s).
(Bowlby, 1988: Kindle L1196)
Bowlby emphasised the parallels between secure parenting and good psychotherapy. The interpersonal nature of of psychotherapy can encourage the creation of a secure base and foster the clients natural capacity for growth. 'The psychotherapist's job... is to provide the conditions in which self-healing can take place' (Bowlby in Gomez 1997: 169)
For Bowlby ‘greater emphasis [is] placed on the contribution of the therapist’s role as a companion for his patient in the latter’s exploration of himself and his experiences, and less on the therapist interpreting things to the patient’ (Bowlby, 2005: 151).
Bowlby's main belief is that humans are contact seeking and that our well being depends largely on the state of our relationships. Through psychotherapy the working model of the client can be explored through the ways in which the client relates to the therapist, with the possibliity to explore and modify the patterns that are defeating or self limiting for the client. Security and trust is of significant importance (Gomez 1997: 168)
An attachment orientated therapist will pay particular attention to the clients past and present relationships. May assess the client’s attachment style.
The Adult Attachment Interview AAI (George, Kaplan and Main 1985). Structured clinical instrument with a scoring system:
"[T]he pattern of secure attachment in which the individual is confident that his parent (or parent figure) will be available, responsive, and helpful should he encounter adverse or frightening situations. With this assurance, he feels bold in his explorations of the world. This pattern is promoted by a parent, in the early years especially by mother, being readily available, sensitive to her child’s signals, and lovingly responsive when he seeks protection and/ or comfort" (Bowlby, 2005: Kindle L2223)
"Secure attachment manifests itself in a 'primary' attachment pattern typified by healthy protest on separation followed by relaxed, often collaborative exploration" (Holmes, 2014: 64)
"anxious avoidant attachment in which the individual has no confidence that, when he seeks care, he will be responded to helpfully but, on the contrary, expects to be rebuffed. When in marked degree such an individual attempts to live his life without the love and support of others, he tries to become emotionally self-sufficient self-sufficient and may later be diagnosed as narcissistic or as having a false self of the type described by Winnicott (1960). This pattern, in which conflict is more hidden, is the result of the individual’s mother constantly rebuffing him when he approaches her for comfort or protection. The most extreme cases result from repeated rejections." (Bowlby, 2005: Kindle L2232)
"[T]he child tries to minimise need for attachment in order to forestall rebuff, while at the same time remaining in sufficient contact with the caregiver for a modicum of safety... Bowlby calls this ‘defensive exclusion’, the elimination from consciousness of painful affect such as fear or anxiety for hte sakde of a greater good, that is, a degree of security." (Holmes, 2014: 64)
In 'The Strange Situation' certain infants appeared to be disorientated / disorganised - confused and chaotic, displaying repetitive movements or paralysis.
Disorganised Attachments: Infants often from very disturbed backgrounds, suffering from abuse, neglect, primary care-giver experiencing mourning or suffering from an extreme mental disorder such as bipolar.
Disorganised children may appear dazed and confused, feel the world is an unsafe place, feel unworthy of care, fearful of adults, facade of defiance, shocking behaviours, violent outbursts, confused, escalating anxiety, disassociation, inhabiting parental role.
As adults - may have a distorted view of others, experience difficulties socially, struggle with regulating their emotions and relationships, experienced as explosive, chaotic, insensitive, abusive, untrusting even whilst craving security. Often associated with boarderline states.
(Bowlby 2005: Kindle L2227)
In 'The Strange Situation' these children panicked when mother left. When returned the child both hugged and fought mother. The children are subsequently unable to play freely and keep battling and hugging the mother.
Ambivalent Attachments: primary carers behaviour inconsistent and unpredictable, and not sensitive to child’s needs.
Ambivalent children think they are unloveable, see parents/others as unpredictable, easily distressed/angered and difficult to comfort and may try to coerce or manipulate for love. Cannot rely on their needs being met.
As adults - can be anxious, seek attention, inconsistent rejecting and clingy, socially impulsive, quick to blame, intense difficulty with relationships ending.
n 'The Strange Situation' these children were not as visibly upset when mother leaves and ignores her when she returns. The child, does not play as freely..
Avoidant Attachments: primary carer interacts less with their children, distant and detached. Send signals for their child not to show their emotions and tend to show less of their own emotions.
Avoidant children tend to avoid parents, feel unworthy of care, repress anger and need, are not very explorative and appear emotionally distant. Subconsciously believe needs will not be met. Treats parents/strangers similarly.
As adults - tendency to appear anxious, compulsively self reliant, shut down emotionally, suspicious in close relationships, intimacy and socially isolated, with occasional bursts of extreme anger and difficulty sharing feelings.
"the individual is uncertain whether his parent will be available or responsive or helpful when called upon. Because of this uncertainty he is always prone to separation anxiety, tends to be clinging, and is anxious about exploring the world. This pattern, in which conflict is evident, is promoted by a parent being available and helpful on some occasions but not on others, and by separations and, as clinical findings show, by threats of abandonment used as a means of control." (Bowlby, 2005: Kindle L2227)
The ambivalent strategy... involves clinging to the caregiver, often with excessive submissiveness (Holmes, 2014: 64)
"disorganised is less common...with much more severe pathology...when faced with a frightened or frightening care-giver the child relies on 'autistic' self-soothing strategies when threatened such as disassociation or self harm...as they grow older, may opt for 'role reversal in which caregiver is cared for rather than vice versa, thereby at least vicariously providing a degree of connection" (Holmes 2014: 64-65)
"In all three cases, feelings of anger at rejection and fear of abandonment are conspicuously subject to defensive exclusion.
Although these strategies have the function of maintaining attachment in the face of difficulties, a price has to be paid. The attachment patterns so established are clearly restricted and, if repeated in all relationships, will be maladaptive in that they inhibit exploration and unguarded emotional expression. Defensive exclusion also means that models cannot be updated in the light of new experience.
Thus the drawback of defensive exclusion is that it deprives the child of the opportunity for emotional processing of painful affect. This is particularly evident in pathological mourning, which leads to the persistence of primitive feeling of hate and abandonment and restricts emotional growth and development."
(Holmes, 2014: 65)
"If it became tradition that small children were never subjected to complete or prolonged separation from their parents in the same way that regular sleep and orange juice have become nursery traditions, I believe that many cases of neurotic character development would be avoided." (Bowlby 1940)
Programme on attachment:
Bowlby, J. (1940). The influence of early environment in the development of neurosis and neurotic character. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21, 154–178
Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Separation Anxiety and Anger (Vol. 2). Harmondsworth: Penguin
Bowlby, J. (2005). A secure base: clinical applications of attachment theory. London; New York: Routledge
Gomez, L. (1997). An introduction to object relations. London: Free Association Books
Holmes, J. (2014). John Bowlby and attachment theory (Second edition.). London ; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Possibilities of change observe potential of effective therapeutic relationships...
Questions from the Adult Attachment Interview
George, Kaplan & Main (1985)
Try to describe your relationship with your parents as a young child if you could start from
as far back as you can remember?
When you were upset as a child, what would you do?
Were your parents ever threatening with you in any way - maybe for discipline, or even jokingly?
In general, how do you think your overall experiences with your parents have affected your adult personality?
Are there any other aspects of your early experiences, that you think might have held your development
back, or had a negative efect on the way you turned out?
What is your relationship with your parents (or remaining parent) like for you now as an adult?