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THE LANDSCAPE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTACHMENT An Overview From the Practicing Psychologist’s Perspective With Links to Basic Research Wells Hively, Ph. D. and Ann Dell Duncan-Hively, Ph. D, J. D Workshop for SAWERAA Mahatma Gandhi Center, St. Louis, MO, 28 April 2012
THE UNIQUELY HUMAN PERIOD OF INFANCY
STAGES OF NEUROLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT
GENETICALLY DETERMINED PERSONALITY TRAITS
GENETIC PROGRAMMING OF EARLY CARETAKING
THE CONNECTION TO ETHOLOGY Conrad Lorenz and His Orphaned Goslings
BASIC LEARNING PROCESSES: REINFORCEMENT, PUNISHMENT AND EXTINCTION
ALL THE FOREGOING ARE INGREDIENTS OF ATTACHMENT THEORY • Windows of unfolding neurological development, genetically pre-determined personality traits (of both the baby and the caretaker) and genetically predetermined patterns of parent/child interaction form the basis of initial attachment. • Then the relationship is shaped by reinforcement, punishment and extinction (of both the child’s behavior and the caretaker’s behavior) arising from the surrounding environment and from the daily interactions between the caretaker and the child. • Attachment theory brings together neurology, developmental psychology, ethology, behavioral psychology and Freudian Psychoanalysis – a heroic integration.
STAGES: INITIAL ATTACHMENT
STAGES: TRANSFER OF ATTACHMENT
STAGES: ESTABLISHMENT OF A SECURE BASE
SOMEBODY HAS TO COMMIT Romanian Orphanage American Day Care Center
PATTERNS OF CARETAKER ATTACHMENT Traditional, nuclear family structures Extended family structures “Modern” family structures: Equal time parents Stay at home dad Primary Nanny Same-sex partners
FAILURE SCENARIOS Hospitalized/orphaned children Stressed/traumatized primary caretakers Natural/social disasters (“Lost” boys and girls, child soldiers, gang members, Madrassa recruits) Mothers/fathers whose own attachment failed
ATTACHMENT OUTCOMES • Healthy attachment – self-confident, trustful, empathetic, loyal • Anxious attachment – uncertain, dependent, preoccupied, submissive • Narcissistic detachment (withdrawal) – dismissing, avoidant, resistant, callous, sociopathic • Ambivalent attachment - (swinging between anxious attachment and narcissistic detachment) • Disorganized attachment – post-traumatic characteristics
ATTACHMENT AND TRAUMA • Healthy attachment – resilience • Anxious attachment – dependency • Narcissistic detachment– violent retaliation and/or repetition • Ambivalent attachment – hysterical distrust • Disorganized attachment - psychosis
ATTACHMENT AND SEXUAL EXPERIENCE Healthy attachment – connected sex: Empathy, trust and mutual comfort Unhealthy attachment – kinky sex: Dependency, Detachment, distrust and self-centeredness
CONCLUSION • Take care of the babies and the grown-ups will take care of themselves Prevention is the cure • When the baby is on the way - Identify, prepare and protect the primary caretakers Security, peacefulness, time and sensitivity • The awesome power of play
LINKS • The fundamental theorist, John Bowlby, now deceased, was long associated with the Tavistock Institute in London which continues to carry on related work with children and families www. tavinstitute. org • Mary Ainsworth, formerly professor at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia, also now deceased, designed the fundamental research paradigm for assessing attachment in children from age 1 to 2, known as the Strange Situation. She leant her name to the Mary D. Ainsworth Clinic, associated with the University of Virginia, applying attachment theory to therapy and parent training. http: //attachmentclinic. org
MORE LINKS • Other key individuals in the field of attachment theory include: • Mary Main, University of California, see Lifespan Learning Institute: www. lifespanlearn. org • Alan Sroufe, University of Minnesota: www. attachment-training. com • Everett Waters, Stonybrook University: www. johnbowlby. com • From their web sites you can find everyone else.
TECHNICALITIES • Much of the power of attachment theory comes from its tremendous face validity. It integrates a broad and powerful set of psychological concepts, and in purely intuitive terms it just feels correct. But research findings that support it rely on ethological/anthropological methods that are detailed and complex, requiring rigorous training of the observers and analysts in order to insure reliability. • Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Technique for assessing attachment in children age 1 to 2 is very well validated and the results have been cross-culturally replicated. Main’s technique for assessing attachment in adults is also well validated, and security of mother’s attachment (“autonomous” descriptions of childhood experiences) has been shown to correlate with security of their children in the Strange Situation. Waters’ Q-Sort Technique for assessing children’s attachment in the home setting has also been shown to correlate with degrees of attachment found in the Strange Situation. • Of course, once children have learned to talk, they can be interviewed with questionnaires similar to those used by Main. Such assessments, and others based on projective techniques, are under development but not yet well validated. • Probably the best currently available technique for assessing attachment for practical purposes is just a detailed history of early childhood caretaking, collected from all available participants.