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Attachment Theory

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Kristina Kwan

on 25 October 2014

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Transcript of Attachment Theory

What is attachment?
a lasting psychological connectedness
between human beings.
Attachment Styles of Children
Attachment Theory
Caregiver Behavior
Components of Attachment
Attachment Styles as Adults
John Bowlby
Able to separate from parent
Seek comfort from parent when frightened
Return of parent is met with positive emotions
Evidence against
Supporting Evidence
Supporting Evidence
Mary Ainsworth
The caregiver provides a secure and dependable base for the child to explore the world.
The child strives to stay near the caregiver by crying, smiling or searching, (evoke response), thus keeping the child safe.
When separated from the caregiver, the child will become distressed, upset, or anxious.
A child should receive the continuous care of the attachment figure for the first two years of life.

If the attachment is broken or disrupted during the critical two year period the child will suffer irreversible long-term consequences of this maternal deprivation.
Disruption of attachment could result in long term cognitive, social and emotional difficulties.

• delinquency
• reduced intelligence
• increased aggression
• depression
• affectionless psychopathy
The child’s attachment relationship leads to the development of an internal working model - understanding the world, self and others.
Serves as model of:
(1) others as being trustworthy and reliable
(2) self as valuable and worthy
(3) self as effective when interacting with others
British Psychoanalyst & child psychiatrist (1907-1990)
Believed that mental health and behavioral problems could be attributed to early childhood.
Worked with maladjusted and delinquent children pre/post WWII, where children were often separated from family
Search for theoretical explanation of symptoms, drawn from evolutionary biology, ethology, and developmental psychology
Expanded theory with Mary Ainsworth (1950's -)
No particular therapy style associated with theory (i.e. Rogerian, CBT)
Awareness of Internal Working Model
Address past experiences that affect present relationships
Mary Ainsworth (1913-1991) was an American, Canadian developmental psychologist known for her work in early emotional attachment with the strange situation as well as her work in the further development of "The Attachment Theory."
In the 1970's, Ainsworth devised a procedure, known as the Strange Situation to observe attachment relationships between a caregiver and a child.
Notable ideas: attachment styles in children.
Mary Ainsworth did observational research in Scotland, Uganda, Africa and the USA. Her work in Uganda shows characteristics that cross linguistics, cultural and geographical lines.
A child innately attaches to one main figure (monotropy), i.e. mother, dependent relationship.
Adults who experienced a positive attachment to their caregiver will feel secure in their relationships
They are confident that their partners will be there to support them
They depend on others and have others depend on them
Anxiously Ambivalent
May be wary of strangers
Become greatly distressed when the parent leaves.
Do not appear to be comforted by the return of the parent.

May avoid parents.
Do not seek much comfort or contact from parents.
Show little or no preference between parent and stranger
Over-active attachment behavior
Worry that others will not love them completely
Feel frustrated when their attachment needs go unmet
Deactivated attachment behavior
May not care too much about close relationships
Does not try to depend on anyone and does not try to have anyone depend on them too much
unable to have emotionally meaningful relationships and attachments
Insensitive;explosive;abusive; untrusting
Role of client
Role of counselor
At Age 1
Show a mixture of avoidant and resistant behaviors.
May seem dazed, confused, or apprehensive.
At age 6
May take on a parental role.
Some children act as a caregiver toward the parent
Client provides information about his/her first caregivers relationships/attachment.
Client describes current relationship/emotional problems.
Client is allowed to freely confront, show emotions, clarify thoughts.
The counselor takes the role of the secure caregiver where the client can feel free to express emotions,verbalize protest and develop a secure attachment.
The counselor is non-judgmental, supportive, and validates client's feelings.
First 2 years
Maternal Deprivation
Internal Working Model
Strange Situation
When the child feel threatened or afraid, he or she can return to the caregiver for comfort and soothing.
Safe Haven

Secure Base


Separation Distress
Responds appropriately, promptly and consistently to needs. Caregiver has successfully formed a secure parental attachment bond to child.
Little or no response to distressed child. Discourages crying and encourages independence.
Inconsistent between appropriate and neglectful responses. Generally will only respond after increased attachment behavior from the infant.
Frightened or frightening behavior, intrusiveness, withdrawal, negativity, role confusion, communication errors and maltreatment. Very often associated with many forms of abuse towards the child.
What does it look like?
Children with healthy attachments at an earlier age appear to be more socially competent, higher self esteems and confidence, and took more initiative.
Difficulties forming attachment in later life
Observe same kinds of individual differences in adult relationships that Ainsworth observed in infant-caregiver relationships
The way adult relationships "work" should be similar to how infant caregiver relationships work
Adult relationships may be partial reflection of experience with caregiver
Further Development
Inconsistencies of psychoanalytic views (mother as ego, superego, internal drives)
Rejected psychoanalytic explanations for attachment
Believed that children were responding to real life events and not unconscious fantasies
Bowlby accused of being a behaviorist, ostracized by psychoanalysts
Partnership with Mary Ainsworth clarified theory, supported by experiments
Children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, as evolutionary survival strategy.
feelings and thoughts are not measurable
minimized the need for attachment
"maternal reinforcing stimulus" states that infant felt the need to be close to their caregiver due to what the caregiver can provide for the infant
Thus, attachment is a learned behavior.
Bonds are formed through
Nature plays a key role of how people develop
What creates the different personalities in siblings who grew up in the same home?
Twin studies
Schaffer and Emerson study (1964)
Their mother is not the only person involved in babies' and children's lives. They have multiple caregivers; fathers, grandparents, siblings, childcare teachers, etc....
Children can attach by means of different interactions, not just primary caring routines.
Multiple Attachments
No such thing as a critical period!
The first three years is considered a "sensitive" period for attachment instead, but children can attach to caregivers later in life.
Effects of deprivation can be reversed
Adoption studies
Ainsworth's experiments
Supporting Evidence
Full transcript