How has attachment theory been used

Helen is a Clinical Psychologist and PhD student investigating the understanding and applications of attachment theory in clinical practice.

How has attachment theory been used

The propensity to form intimate bonds is considered to be a basic component of human nature that continues throughout the lifespan.

Key points

Although attachment theory was first formulated to explain the bond that develops between infants and their primary caregivers, John Bowlbythe British psychiatrist responsible for pioneering the theory, asserted that attachment is an integral part of human behavior "from the cradle to the grave" Bowlby, This entry focuses on the role of attachment processes in adult intimate relationships.

Normative Attachment Processes in Adulthood Attachment refers to a specific type of bond that has four defining features: Bonds of attachment are found in some, but not all, relationships of emotional significance— only those that are critical to an individual's sense of security and emotional stability Weiss Adult pair bonds, in which sexual partners mutually provide security to one another, are presumed to be the prototypical attachment relationship in adulthood see Hazan and Zeifman for a review.

First, individuals come into the world equipped with an attachment behavioral system that is prone to activation when they are distressed and that serves a major evolutionary function of protection and survival Bowlby ; Bretherton The attachment system is, thus, a safety-regulating system that solidifies enduring emotional bonds between individuals that contribute to reproductive success.

Although there are normative developmental changes in the expression of the attachment system across the lifespan, the basic function of the attachment system remains constant Hazan and Zeifman Adults as well as children benefit from having someone looking out for them—someone who is deeply invested in their welfare, who monitors their whereabouts, and who is reliably available to help if needed.

Consistent with this idea, research indicates that intimate relationships play a critical role in promoting health and well-being in adulthood, and that relationship disruption in adulthood is associated with a wide range of adverse health outcomes see Uchino, Cacioppo, and Kiecolt-Glaser for a review.

Caregiving refers to a broad array of behaviors that complement a partner's attachment behavior, and may include help or assistance, comfort and reassurance, and support of a partner's autonomous activities and personal growth Collins and Feeney, B.

Responsive caregiving in situations of distress restores feelings of security and gives the attached individual confidence to explore the environment and productively engage in social and achievement activities. Unlike parent-child relationships, which have clearly defined caregiving and care-seeking roles, adult intimate relationships are reciprocal and mutual.

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Therefore, in well-functioning attachment bonds, adult partners should be able to comfortably rely on one another in times of need, sometimes as care-seekers and sometimes as caregivers Collins and Feeney, B. Individual Differences in Adult Attachment Styles Although the need for security is believed to be universal, adults differ systematically in their beliefs regarding attachment relationships and in the way they maintain and regulate feelings of security.

Differences in attachment style are thought to be rooted in underlying differences in internal working models of self as worthy or unworthy of love and others as responsive or unresponsive. Working models are thought to develop, at least in part, from interactions with important attachment figures and, once formed, are presumed to guide social interaction and emotion regulation in childhood and adulthood Ainsworth et al.

Although the basic tenets of attachment theory argue for the existence of attachment bonds throughout the lifespan, the systematic investigation of attachment processes in adult couple relationships did not begin until Cindy Hazan and Philip Shaver identified styles of attachment in adulthood that parallel those observed among infants.

Subsequent advances in the conceptualization and measurement of these styles have led adult attachment researchers to recognize four prototypic attachment styles, which are derived from two underlying dimensions.

These dimensions are referred to as anxiety and avoidance, and they are most often assessed through self-report questionnaires for reviews, see Brennan, Clark, and Shaver ; Crowell, Fraley and Shaver The anxiety dimension refers to the degree to which an individual is worried about being rejected or unloved; the avoidance dimension refers to the degree to which an individual avoids versus approaches intimacy and interdependence with others.

The four attachment styles derived from these two dimensions are: Secure adults are low in both attachmentrelated anxiety and avoidance; they are comfortable with intimacy, willing to rely on others for support, and are confident that they are loved and valued by others.

Preoccupied anxious-ambivalent adults are high in anxiety and low in avoidance; they have an exaggerated desire for closeness and dependence, coupled with a heightened concern about being rejected.


Dismissing avoidant adults are low in attachment-related anxiety but high in avoidance; they view close relationships as relatively unimportant, and they value independence and self-reliance.Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure.

The roots of research on attachment began with Freud's theories about love, but another researcher is usually credited as the father of attachment The development of interventions derived from Attachment Theory has been a slow process.

Bowlby’s primary interest was in promoting change in child-rearing practices.

How has attachment theory been used

He wrote little about applications to clinical practice until relatively late in his career (Lieberman & Zeanah, ).

One of his later files/DCP/catpdf. · Concern about attachment theory has been raised with regard to the fact that infants often have multiple relationships, within the family as well as in child care settings, and that the dyadic model characteristic of attachment theory cannot address the complexity of real-life social description of theory · Reception · See also · Notes · Attachment theory has become the dominant theory used today in the study of infant and toddler behavior and in the fields of infant mental health, treatment of children, and related fields.

Attachment in adult romantic relationships. Attachment theory was extended to adult romantic relationships in the late 's. · A timeline of Bowlby’s attachment theory the Government used the works and hypotheses of Bowlby for political purposes, most famously marketing that sucking – it has been shown that this is also a thing of comfort, as it can reduce the level of stress in an /content/0/ Object Moved This document may be found

Review and Criticisms of Attachment Theory