A Brief History of Attachment Theory

November 4, 2017 History

Lifespan Human Development Summer 2006 A Brief History of Attachment Theory The theory of attachment was originally developed by John Bowlby (1907 – 1990), a British psychoanalyst who observed intense and distressful behaviors among orphans in hospitals during and after World War II We Have Expertise To Write Homework In All Areas – go to this site http://www.streetarticles.com/about/michaelbeavers/829779  . Between 1948 and 1952 Bowlby, along with his employee and then colleague, James Robertson, came to realize that infants who had been separated from their parents were not able to form an attachment with a primary caregiver, leading to anxiety or ultimately to insecurity or disassociation.

Bowlby’s theory was also influenced by his observations of nonhuman primates. In the helpless young, he saw infant behaviors geared towards fostering contact with the necessary caregiver. He first considered this attachment to be an evolutionary mechanism developed by mammalian offspring for survival of the species. If young mammals, including humans, are separated from their caregivers, they exhibit agitated behaviors and begin to demand attention from their primary caregiver.

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This distressed experience due to separation from the primary caregiver became known as “separation distress” and comes in three phases: protest, then despair, and finally detachment. Bowlby (1973) defined attachment as “any form of behavior that results in a person attaining or retaining proximity to some other differentiated and preferred individual, usually conceived as stronger and/or wiser” (p. 292). This attachment, when dynamic, enduring, and evolving, leads to a symbiotic relationship between the infant and the caregiver.

The infant learns to respond to the caregiver based on signals given by the caregiver, and the caregiver learns the moods and needs of the infant based on the infant’s signals. Because infants and toddlers cannot verbalize or clearly articulate their deep mourning at being separated from their caregiver, Bowlby’s theory was rejected by his peers at first, sometimes with much hostility (Karen 1994). At that time, psychoanalysts thought that these expressions, especially aggression, were manifestations of an immature defense process that was operating to repress emotional pain. In essence, they mistook attachment distress for temperament.

Bowlby particularly confronted Anna Freud’s contention that infants cannot feel pain and loss and can find solace in other children and rejected Melanie Klein’s theory of primitive fantasies of loss and persecution and her Object Relations Theory as it applied to infants. Additionally, although Bowlby was not the first to study infants, he was one of the first to explore their world through their experiences, and he stressed that this time of life represents a sensitive phase for attachments. Joining Bowlby and Robertson was Mary Ainsworth, who continued attachment observations in Uganda and then Baltimore.

In the 1970s Ainsworth created the Strange Situation, which was the first replicable measurement of observed infant attachment. This assessment explores the dynamics between the primary caregiver, typically the mother, and an infant between twelve and eighteen months of age. The Strange Situation, which lasts about twenty minutes, begins with the mother (for expediency, the primary caregiver is assumed to be the mother) and infant alone in a room. The infant explores and plays with toys without the mother’s participation. A stranger enters the room, talks to the mother, and then interacts with the infant as the mother leaves unobtrusively.

After three minutes, the mother returns and comforts the infant as the stranger leaves. Three minutes later, the mother leaves again, saying bye-bye, and the infant is left alone for three minutes or less. The stranger again enters the room and sooths the infant before the mother re-enters the room and picks up her baby. The stranger leaves. The Strange Situation, in essence, tells the observer whether the infant has learned that he or she can depend on the primary caregiver to be a secure base; this is the basis of Bowlby’s Internal Working Model.

Bowlby (1988) describes a secure base as “the provision by which both parents offer a secure base from which a child or an adolescent can make sorties into the outside world and to which he can return knowing for sure that he will be welcomed when he gets there, nourished physically and emotionally, comforted if distressed, reassured if frightened” (p. 11). Depending on the infant’s reaction to the caregiver’s leaving, the attachment styles are described as “secure,” “insecure-ambivalent,” or “insecure-avoidant. ” This is the infant’s Internal Working Model, Bowlby postulates, on which all future relationships will be based.

Secure infants show a balance between involvement with their environment and the mother. They explore the environment, but as the Strange Situation continues, they increasingly use the mother as a secure base. Initially, they may cry when their mother leaves the room but then, because of their secure base, will usually pacify themselves and return to play. Infants with insecure-ambivalent attachment style are unable to disengage from the mother because they feel doubtful about their secure base. These infants may not be able to calm themselves when their mother leaves, continuing to cry until her return.

Even when she does return, they may not be pacified; also, these infants may waver between wanting to be held by their mother and then pushing her away when she attempts to pick them up. Certain insecure-ambivalent attachment styles can appear to be secure but are based on fear and the perceived loss of safety, as opposed to a loving secure base. Finally, infants with insecure-avoidant attachment style know that they have no secure base; therefore, they usually do not react when their mother leaves the room or returns.

Because they have not received any nurturing in the past when expressing anxiety, they know that none will be forthcoming from their mother in the Strange Situation. While it has been shown that the Strange Situation needs to take into account certain cultural and socio-economic variations, the predominant classification, regardless of culture, race, and religion, is secure, then typically avoidant, and finally ambivalent. Finally, a fourth classification is “disorganized,” which suggests that there may be a deviation from a typical behavior.

As such, disorganized is added to a behavior classification of secure, ambivalent, or avoidant. Because an adult’s Internal Working Model is the direct result of care giving that either did or did not produce a secure base, the adult reflects his or her attachment behavior in current relationships with people, all of whom sequentially have taken over as the “primary caregiver. ” Behavior in adult relationships, whether secure, ambivalent (or “resistant”), or avoidant, is directly attributable to the Internal Working Model developed in infancy, which will probably manifest in how the adult attaches to his or her own children.

Therefore, a healthy, secure attachment with the primary caregiver in infancy provides a different kind of secure base for social, emotional, and psychiatric development through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Mary Main, a student of Ainsworth, reasserted this notion of the Internal Working Model in Attachment Theory and also developed a “reverse engineered” assessment of attachment in adults. She helped develop the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) at the University of California at Berkley. The AAI comprises twenty questions about an adult’s relationship with her or his parents.

It also elicits information about traumas and, if relevant, interactions with the adult’s children; the interview takes approximately sixty to ninety minutes and is recorded. The answers are then transcribed verbatim and scored by a recognized AAI coder in a complex scoring process that evaluates the coherence of the subject’s answers. Mary Main describes a coherent interview in the following way (Slade 1999): “A coherent interview is both believable and true to the listener; in a coherent interview, the events and affects intrinsic to early relationships are conveyed without distortion, contradiction or derailment of discourse.

The subject collaborates with the interviewer, clarifying his or her meaning, and working to make sure he or she is understood. Such a subject is thinking as the interview proceeds, and is aware of thinking with and communicating to another; thus coherence and collaboration are inherently inter-twined and interrelated” (p. 580). The coherence of the answers is evaluated using fourteen, nine-point scales. One of these scales is composed of the four conversational maxims of philosopher Paul Grice. According to the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia, these are • Maxim of Quality: Truth (Do not say what you believe to be false.

Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence. ) • Maxim of Quantity: Information (Make your contribution as informative as is required for the current purposes of the exchange. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required. ) • Maxim of Relation: Relevance (Be relevant. ) • Maxim of Manner: Clarity (Avoid obscurity of expression. Avoid ambiguity. Be brief [avoid unnecessary prolixity]. Be orderly. ) Other scales include • Experience (Loving, Expression of Attachment, Pressure to Achieve, Involving / Role Reversal / Preoccupying, and Neglecting) State of Mind about Attachment • Unresolved – Loss / Abuse / Trauma The Strange Situation and the AAI classification are similar but have different category lettering. Appendixes I and 2 contain a complete description of the classifications, categories, and similarities. The four individuals mentioned above, Bowlby, Robertson, Ainsworth, and Main, were definitely seminal to the development of Attachment Theory, but there were pioneers before them and others carrying on the work in Attachment Theory. Early forerunners include David Levy, Loretta Bender, Hary Bokwin, Harold Skeels, and Renee Spitz.

Contemporaries and disciples consist of Conrad Lorenz, Harry Harlow, Robert Hinde, Margaret Mead, Inge Bretherton, Erik Heese, Everett Waters, Alan Sroufe, Dante Cicchetti, Michael Lamb, Alicia Lieberman, D. C. Va den Boom, Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Nancy Kaplan, Carol George, Ruth Goldwyn, and Jude Cassidy. Turning now to my own history with attachment, I was fascinated enough by the subject to contemplate taking the AAI. Even knowing some of the questions in advance, I figured that I would glean quite a bit of knowledge about the process and myself.

However, because of time constraints and an intimation of where I would be on the scale now, I defaulted to taking the Close Relationships Questionnaire/Experiences at the web page http://www. web-research-design. net/cgi-bin/crq/crq. pl. This is associated with Chris Fraley’s (2004) book, How to Conduct Behavioral Research over the Internet: A Beginner’s Guide to Html and CGI/PERL. Because of some recent life experiences, I took the test first with the mind-set that I was twenty-two years old, recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and married for a year. I predicted that I would fall in the Preoccupied (E) category.

Because of several techniques I have employed over the past few years, I felt as though I honestly was able to re-create how I had behaved at that early age. Centering myself, I then retook the quiz as I feel now at fifty-three, believing that I would exhibit a Secure/Autonomous (F) behavior style. In the handout notes, it states that “self-report measures have not proven to be effective for measuring the state of mind of attachment since what has emerged thus far is a pattern of insecure subjects rating themselves as secure and secure subjects rating themselves as insecure. This does not appear to be the case for me, while the prediction at the age of twenty-three was incorrect, it was actually worse, because I fell into the Fearful/Avoidant quadrant. However, the prediction for my current age was not only correct, but even higher than I had thought it would be. My mother is full German and extremely narcissistic. Not only was I not to be heard as a child, but also I was not to be seen, especially if it did not reflect positively on her. My biological father died when I was five, and my stepfather (albeit, in my eyes, simply my father) could not stand up to my mother.

I was not a clinging child, but I sure was not indifferent; that could lead to extreme punishment. This is why I projected a preoccupied behavior. I found an underlying high level of fear that I did not remember being present. There is obviously much more for me to learn about the nuances of Attachment Theory and how infant classifications relate to adult behavior. In the late nineties, my mother and sister took turns suing me over a family business I had successfully run for more than twenty years and over an inheritance.

Although I “won” in the physical realm, I really won on the psychological because their persistence finally tore down my co-dependence. After a year of depression, I began reassembling myself. While it did cause my marriage of thirty years to end, I emerged, as they say, a changed man. I knew that I would test at a fairly high secure level. Both the Close Relationships Questionnaire/Experiences are reproduced in Appendixes 3 and 4, with an additional Affect, Personality, and Attachment at 22 years test in Appendix 5.

I requested that my final be a general recapitulation of the course, which has given me a better basic grasp of Attachment Theory. However, I realize that I have truly only scratched the surface. In Bowlby’s (1988) book A Secure Base, which delves much further into Attachment theory than does my paper, he writes, “This brief sketch represents what will be an enormous programme of research and one that will clearly require generations of research workers” (p. 178). This statement parenthetically applies to my evident need to continue my research into Attachment Theory.

I do not, however, consider that “need” to be a punishment, but an invitation to discover even more of what I consider to be the fascinating and imperative work started by Bowlby. References Ainsworth, M. , Blehar M. , Waters, E. , & Wall. S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books. Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base. New York: Basic Books. Fraley R. (2004). How to conduct behavioral research over the internet: A beginner’s guide to html and cgi/perl.

New York: Guilford Press. http://www. web-research-design. net/cgi-bin/crq/crq. pl. Accessed 14 August 2006. Grice, P. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia Web Site. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Gricean_maxim. Accessed 16 August 2006. Karen, R. (1994). Becoming attached. New York: Warner. Santrock, J. (2005). Life-span development. New York: McGraw-Hill. Slade, A. (1999). Attachment theory and research: Implications for the theory and practice of individual psychotherapy for adults. In J. Cassidy & P. Shaver (eds. ), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 575, 594). New York: Guilford Press.

Stony Brook University, Department of Psychology, Stony Brook, NY. www. psychology. sunysb. edu/ewaters/552/similar. htm. Accessed 15 August 2006. Your Personality Web Site. http://www. yourpersonality. net/. Accessed 14 August 2006. Appendix 1 Classifications and Corresponding Patterns of Infant Strange Situation Behavior Infant strange situation behavior Adult state of mind with respect to attachment |Secure (B) |Secure/autonomous (F) | |Explores room and toys with interest in preseparation episodes.

Shows |Coherent, collaborative discourse. Valuing of attachment, but | |signs of missing parent during separation, often crying by the second |seems objective regarding any particular event/relationship. | |separation. Obvious preference for parent over stranger. Greets parent |Description and evaluation of attachment-related experiences is| |actively, usually initiating physical contact. Usually some contact |consistent, whether experiences are favorable or Unfavorable. | |maintaining by second reunion, but then settles and returns to play. |Discourse does not notably violate any of Grice’s maxims. |Avoidant (A) |Dismissing (Ds) | |Fails to cry on separation from parent. Actively avoids and ignores parent|Not coherent Dismissing of attachment-related experiences and | |on reunion (i. e. , by moving away, turning away, or leaning out of arms |relationships. Normalizing (“excellent, very normal mother”), | |when picked up). Little or no proximity or contact seeking, no distress, |with generalized representations of history unsupported or | |and no anger.

Response to parent appears unemotional. Focuses on toys or |actively contradicted by episodes recounted, thus violating | |environment throughout procedure. |Grice’s maxim of quality. Transcripts also tend to be | | |excessively brief, violating the maxim of quantity. | |Resistant or ambivalent (C) |Preoccupied (E) | |May be wary or distressed even prior to separation, with little |Not coherent.

Preoccupied with or by past attachment | |exploration. Preoccupied with parent throughout procedure; may seem angry |relationships/experiences; speaker appears angry, passive, or | |or passive. Fails to settle and take comfort in parent on reunion and |fearful. Sentences often long, grammatically entangled, or | |usually continues to focus on parent and cry. Fails to return to |filled with vague usages (“dadadada,” “and that”), thus | |exploration after reunion. |violating Grice’s maxims of manner and relevance.

Transcripts | | |often excessively long, violating the maxim of quantity. | |Disorganized/disoriented (D) |Unresolved/disorganized (U) | |The infant displays disorganized and/or disoriented behaviors in the |During discussions of loss or abuse, individual shows striking | |parent’s presence, suggesting a temporary collapse of behavioral strategy. |lapse in the monitoring of reasoning or discourse.

For example,| |For example, the infant may freeze with a trancelike expression, hands in |individual may briefly indicate a belief that a dead person is | |air; may rise at parent’s entrance, then fall prone and huddled on the |still alive in the physical sense or that this person was | |floor; or may cling while crying hard and leaning away with gaze averted. |killed by a childhood thought. Individual may lapse into | |Infant will ordinarily otherwise fit A, B, or C categories. |prolonged silence or eulogistic speech.

The speaker will | | |ordinarily otherwise fit D, E, or F categories. | | | |Note. Descriptions of the adult attachment classification system are summarized from Main, Kaplan, and Cassidy (1985) and Main and Goldwyn | |(1984a, 1998a). Descriptions of infant A, B, and C categories are summarized from Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, and Wall (1978), and the | |description of the infant D category is summarized from Main. and Solomon (1990). Data from Main (1996). | Appendix 2

Strange Situation and AAI Similarity Matrices Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY For many who are new to the Strange Situation or the AAI, the complex set of classification and sub-classification options is a major obstacle to learning the scoring systems and using them reliably. In fact, the task is much simpler than it appears. Experienced scorers use critical information to quickly form an impression of what the subject’s classification might be. They then look for further information that either confirms this preliminary classification or points toward an alternative.

Experienced scorers know that for any preliminary classification there are really only a few plausible alternatives. The tables below summarize, for each Strange Situation and AAI classification, the alternative classifications that need to be examined closely. They should make both classification systems easier to learn and use reliably. Strange Situation Similarity Matrix Initial classification on left; alternatives across top. (Stronger possibilities are in darker colors. ) |. |A1 |A2 | |Mother |55 (22) |71 (43) | |Father |35 (27) |54 (53) | Partner |60 (38) |42 (31) | |Friend |37 (24) |42 (28) | In this research we are interested also in how peoples’ attachment styles might be related to the way they process emotional information–information about the affective states of others. To investigate this matter, we asked you to watch several movie clips of people expressing different emotions and to indicate the point at which the person no longer appeared to be experiencing the emotional state in question. These movie clips are artificial; thus, there is no right or wrong answer in the judgment task.

As such, we expect that people will project aspects of their own personalities into the ways in which they perceive the emotional states of others. The table below shows the point at which you stopped the movie (on average) for different kinds of emotions. The number shown in the middle column is the frame at which you stopped the movie–out of a total of 100 frames per movie. The numbers in the right-most column are the frames at which other people stopped the movie, on average. |Emotional state |Your judgment |Other people’s judgments | |Anger |90. 00 |67. 8 | |Happiness |86. 67 |64. 43 | |Sadness |76. 67 |66. 87 | Overall, the point at which you stopped the movie clips tended to be later than the point at which other people stopped the movie clips. This suggests that you tend to see emotions as ‘enduring’ longer than other people. Because the movies are artificial, however, it is important to keep in mind that there is no ‘true’ point at which the actors stopped feeling the emotions.


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