A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research (2023)


Adult attachment research is guided by the assumption that the same motivational system that produces a close emotional attachment between parents and children is responsible for the attachment that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships. The purpose of this essay is to provide a brief overview of the history of adult attachment research, the main theoretical ideas, and a selection of some research findings. This essay is written for people interested in learning more about adult attachment research.

Background: Bowlby's attachment theory

Attachment theory was originally developed by John Bowlby (1907 - 1990), a British psychoanalyst who was trying to understand the intense distress of babies separated from their parents. Bowlby observed that separated infants go to extraordinary lengths (eg, crying, clinging, desperately searching) to avoid separation from their parents or to reconnect with an absent parent. At the time of Bowlby's early writings, psychoanalytic writers believed that these expressions were manifestations of immature defense mechanisms designed to suppress emotional pain, but Bowlby noted that such expressions were common in a variety of mammalian species and speculated that these behaviors might serve an evolutionary function. 🇧🇷 Occupation.

Bowlby based and postulated the ethological theoryattachment behavior, such as crying and searching, were adaptive responses to separation from a primary personcarer--someone who provides support, protection, and care. Since human babies, like other mammalian babies, cannot support or protect themselves, they are dependent on the care and protection of "older and wiser" adults. Bowlby argued that, throughout evolutionary history, babies who managed to maintain closeness with a caregiver through attachment behaviors were more likely to reach reproductive age. According to Bowlby, what he called the motivational systemattachment behavior system, was gradually "engineered" through natural selection to regulate proximity to a caregiver.

(Video) Introduction to Attachment Theory

The attachment behavior system is an important concept in attachment theory because it provides the conceptual link between ethological models of human development and modern theories of emotion and personality regulation. Essentially, according to Bowlby, the attachment system "asks" the following fundamental question: Is the caregiver close, approachable, and caring? When the child realizes that the answer to this question is "yes", he feels loved, safe and confident, and is likely to explore his environment, play and socialize with others. However, if the child perceives the answer to this question as "no", the child is experiencing anxiety and is likely to exhibit attachment behaviors ranging from simple visual searching on the lower extremity to active tracking and vocal signaling on the lower extremity. (see Figure 1). 🇧🇷 These behaviors continue until the child is able to re-establish a desirable level of physical or psychological closeness with the caregiver, or until the child "wears out," as may occur in the context of prolonged separation or bereavement. In such cases, Bowlby believed, children experienced deep despair and depression.

A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research (1)

Individual differences in children's attachment patterns

Although Bowlby believed that the fundamental dynamics described above captured the normative dynamics of the attachment behavior system, he recognized that there are individual differences in how children rate caregiver approachability and how they regulate their attachment behaviors in response to threats. However, it was not until his colleague Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999) began to systematically study parent-child separation that a formal understanding of these individual differences was articulated. Ainsworth and her students developed a technique called Theawkward situation--A laboratory paradigm for studying parent-child bonding. In the bizarre situation, 12-month-old babies and their parents are taken to the laboratory and systematically separated and reunited. In the odd situation, most children (ie about 60%) behave as Bowlby's "normative" theory suggests. They are upset when the parent leaves the room, but when he or she returns, they actively seek out the parent and are easily comforted by him or her. Children who exhibit this pattern of behavior are often referred to assafe🇧🇷 Other children (about 20% or less) are initially uncomfortable and very distressed about the separation. Importantly, when reuniting with parents, these children have difficulty being reassured and often exhibit conflicting behaviors that indicate they want to be comforted but also blame the parents for "leaving." These children are often calledfear resistant🇧🇷 The third attachment pattern that Ainsworth and his colleagues documented is calledavoid🇧🇷 Avoidant children (about 20%) do not seem overly concerned about separation and actively avoid contact with parents after reunion, sometimes focusing their attention on play objects on the lab floor.

Ainsworth's work was important for at least three reasons. First, it provided one of the first empirical demonstrations of how attachment behavior is modeled in contexts of security and fear. Second, he provided the first empirical taxonomy of individual differences in infant attachment patterns. According to her research, there are at least three types of children: those who are secure in their relationship with their parents, those who are anxious, and those who are anxious and avoidant. Ultimately, he showed that these individual differences were correlated with parent-child interactions at home during the first year of life. For example, children who appear secure in an unfamiliar situation have parents who are responsive to their needs. Children who appear insecure (ie, resistant to anxiety or avoidant) in the unfamiliar situation often have parents who are insensitive to their needs or who are inconsistent or hostile in their care. In the years that followed, several researchers demonstrated links between early parenting sensitivity and responsiveness and attachment security.

adult romantic relationships

Although Bowlby was primarily focused on understanding the nature of the infant-caregiver relationship, he believed that attachment characterized the cradle-to-grave human experience. However, it was not until the mid-1980s that researchers began to seriously consider the possibility that attachment processes might occur in adulthood. Hazan and Shaver (1987) were two of the first researchers to examine Bowlby's ideas in the context of romantic relationships. According to Hazan and Shaver, the emotional bond that develops between adult romantic partners is in part a function of the same motivational system, the attachment behavior system, that produces the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers. Hazan and Shaver found that the relationship between infants and caregivers and the relationship between adult romantic partners share the following characteristics:

  • both feel safe when the other is close and accessible
  • both come into close and intimate physical contact
  • both feel insecure when the other is unreachable
  • both share discoveries with each other
  • both play with each other's facial features and show a mutual fascination and concern for each other
  • both talk about "baby talk"

Based on these parallels, Hazan and Shaver argued that romantic relationships between adults, like those between infants and caregivers, are attachments and that romantic love is a feature of the behavioral attachment system as well as the motivational systems that lead to nurturing and caring. nurture sexuality. 🇧🇷 🇧🇷

Three implications of attachment theory for adults

The idea that romantic relationships can be attachment relationships has profoundly influenced modern research on intimate relationships. There are at least three critical implications of this idea. First,If romantic relationships between adults are attachment relationships, then we should see the same individual differences in relationships between adults that Ainsworth observed in relationships between infants and caregivers.🇧🇷 For example, we might expect some adults to besafein their relationships - feeling secure that their partners are there for them when needed and open to depending on others and becoming dependent on others. Instead, we should expect other adults to be insecure in their relationships. For example, some may be insecure adultsfear resistant: They worry that others don't fully love them and are easily frustrated or upset when their attachment needs aren't met. others can beavoid: They don't seem overly concerned with intimate relationships and may prefer not to be overly dependent on other people or make others dependent on them.

Second,If romantic relationships between adults are attachment relationships, then the way relationships between adults "work" must be similar to the way relationships between infants and caregivers work.🇧🇷 In other words, the same factors that facilitate exploration in children (ie, having a responsive caregiver) should facilitate exploration in adults (ie, having a responsive partner). The kinds of things that make an attachment figure "desirable" for babies (e.g., responsiveness, availability) are the kinds of factors that adults should consider desirable in romantic partners. In summary, individual attachment differences should affect relational and personality behaviors in adulthood just as they did in childhood.

(Video) The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Attachment Affects Adult Relationships

Third,Whether an adult is secure or insecure in their relationships with adults may reflect, in part, their experiences with their primary caregivers.🇧🇷 Bowlby believed that themental representationsOwork models(ie, expectations, beliefs, "rules" or "scripts" for behavior and thinking) that a child has about relationships are a function of his or her experiences of caregiving. For example, a secure child tends to believe that other people will be there for him because past experiences have led him to that conclusion. Once the child has developed such expectations, he will tend to seek relational experiences that are consistent with these expectations and to perceive others in ways that are informed by these beliefs. According to Bowlby, this type of process should encourage the continuation of attachment patterns throughout life, although it is possible for a person's attachment pattern to change if their relationship experiences do not match their expectations. In summary, if we assume that adult relationships are attachment relationships, it is possible that children who are secure children will grow up secure in their loving relationships. Or related to the fact that people who are secure in their relationships with their parents as adults are more likely to form secure relationships with new partners.

In the sections that follow, I briefly review these three implications in light of early and contemporary research on attachment in adulthood.

Do we see the same types of attachment patterns in adults as in children?

The earliest research on adult attachment has involved examining the connection between individual differences in adult attachment and the way people think about their relationships and their memories of relationships with their parents. Hazan and Shaver (1987) developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences. (These individual differences are often calledattachment styles,binding pattern,assembly guidelines, ODifferences in the organization of the attachment system.) Briefly, Hazan and Shaver asked participants to read the three paragraphs listed below and indicate which paragraph best describes the way they think, feel, and behave in intimate relationships:

A. I feel a little uncomfortable around other people; I have a hard time trusting them completely, I have a hard time trusting them. I get nervous when someone gets too close to me and often others want me to be more intimate than I'm comfortable with.

B. I find it relatively easy to reach out to others and feel comfortable depending on them and making them dependent on me. I'm not worried about being abandoned or someone getting too close to me.

C. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or doesn't want to be with me. I want to be very close to my partner and sometimes that pushes people away.

based onthree step measure, Hazan and Shaver found that the distribution of categories was similar to that of childhood. In other words, about 60% of adults rated themselves as confident (paragraph B), about 20% as avoidant (paragraph A), and about 20% as resistant to fear (paragraph C).

While this measure served as a useful way to examine the connection between attachment styles and relationship functioning, it did not allow for a complete test of the hypothesis that the same types of individual differences observed in infants could also be manifested in adults. (In many ways, the Hazan and Shaver measure assumes this to be true.) Subsequent research has examined this hypothesis in several ways. For example, Kelly Brennan and her colleagues collected a series of statements (e.g., "I believe that other people will be there for me when I need them") and examined how these statements were statistically "related" (Brennan, Clark & ​​​Shaver, 1998). 🇧🇷 Brennan's findings suggested that there are two fundamental dimensions to adult attachment patterns (see Figure 2). A critical variable has been markedattachment anxiety🇧🇷 People with high scores on this variable tend to worry about their partner being available, approachable, considerate, etc. The other critical variable is calledattachment avoidance🇧🇷 People at the top of this dimension prefer not to depend on others or open up to others. People on the lower end of this dimension feel most comfortable when they are intimate with others and most secure when they depend on them and others depend on them. A prototypical confident adult is short on both dimensions.

(Video) The 4 Attachment Styles Explained | What’s Yours?

A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research (2)

Brennan's findings are critical because recent analyzes of statistical patterns of infant behavior in unfamiliar situations reveal two functionally similar dimensions: one captures variability in infant fear and resistance, and the other captures variability in behavioral disposition. (cf. Fraley & Spieker, 2003a, 2003b). Functionally, these dimensions are similar to the two dimensions found in adults, suggesting that similar attachment patterns exist at different times in life.

Given Brennan's results, as well as taxometric research published by Fraley and Waller (1998), most researchers now conceptualize and measure differences in individual attachment in a dimensional rather than categorical manner. That is, attachment styles are believed to be things that vary in degree rather than type. The most popular measures of adult attachment style are the ECR by Brennan, Clark, and Shaver (1998) and the ECR-R by Fraley, Waller, and Brennan (2000), a revised version of the ECR. 🇧🇷Click here to take an online questionnaire that will help you determine your attachment style based on these two dimensions.] These two self-report instruments provide continuous scores for the two dimensions of attachment fear and attachment avoidance. 🇧🇷Click here for more information on self-report measures of individual differences in adult attachment.]

Do loving relationships between adults “work” the same way as relationships between infants and caregivers?

There is now a growing body of research suggesting that romantic relationships between adults work in much the same way as relationships between infants and caregivers, with some notable exceptions, of course. Naturalistic studies of adults separated from their partners at an airport showed that attachment-related behaviors indicative of protest and affection were evident and that regulation of these behaviors was associated with attachment style (Fraley & Shaver, 1998). For example, while divorced couples generally exhibit more attachment behaviors than non-divorcing couples, highly avoidant adults exhibit much less attachment behavior than less avoidant adults. In the sections that follow, I explore some of the parallels that have been found between the way infant-caregiver relationships work and romantic relationships between adults.

partner selection
Cross-cultural studies suggest that the secure attachment pattern in childhood is generally considered by mothers to be the most desirable pattern (see van IJzendoorn & Sagi, 1999). For obvious reasons, there are no comparable studies that ask infants whether they prefer a caregiver who enhances security. Adults looking for long-term relationships identify attractive qualities such as attentiveness, warmth, and sensitivity as most "attractive" in potential dating partners (Zeifman & Hazan, 1997). However, despite the attractiveness of safe traits, not all adults mate with safe mates. Some evidence suggests that people end up with partners who confirm their existing beliefs about attachment relationships (Frazier et al., 1997).

Secure base and safe harbor behavior
During infancy, secure babies tend to be the best adjusted in the sense that they are relatively resilient, get along well with their peers, and are well liked. Similar types of patterns have emerged in research on adult attachment. In general, secure adults tend to be happier in their relationships than insecure adults. Their relationships are characterized by greater longevity, trust, commitment, and interdependence (eg, Feeney, Noller, & Callan, 1994), and they are more likely to use romantic partners as a secure base from which to explore the world (eg, B . Fraley). and Davis, 1997). Much of the research on adult attachment has been devoted to uncovering the behavioral and psychological mechanisms that promote security and basic secure behaviors in adults. So far, there have been two important discoveries. First, and according to attachment theory, secure adults are more likely to seek support from their partners in emergency situations than insecure adults. Furthermore, it is more likely thatprovideSupport your grieving partner (eg, Simpson et al., 1992). Second, insecure individuals' attributions about their partner's behavior during and after relationship conflicts exacerbate their insecurities rather than alleviate them (eg, Simpson et al., 1996).

Avoidant attachment and defense mechanisms
According to attachment theory, children differ in the types of strategies they use to regulate attachment-related anxiety. After separation and reunion, for example, some insecure children approach their parents, but with ambivalence and resistance, while others move away from their parents and seem to minimize feelings and behaviors related to attachment. One of the big questions in childhood attachment research is whether children who withdraw from their parents (avoidant children) are actually less distressed or whether their defensive behavior is a cover for their true feelings of vulnerability. Research that has measured children's attention span, heart rate, or stress hormone levels suggests that avoidant children are tormented by the breakup, even when they appear cold and defensive.

Recent research on attachment in adults has revealed some interesting complexities regarding defensive-avoidance relationships. Although some avoidant adults are often citedanxious avoidantAdults, despite their defensive nature, are poorly adapted, others are often nameddismissive-avoidantAdults are able to use defense strategies adaptively. For example, in an experimental task in which adults were asked to talk about the loss of a partner, Fraley and Shaver (1997) found that rejecters (d-related anxiety) were similarly physiologically stressed (as measured by measures skin conductance). like other people. However, when instructed to suppress their thoughts and feelings, discarded people can do so effectively. That is, they were able to turn off their physiological arousal to some extent and minimize their attention to attachment-related thoughts. Anxious avoidants were less successful in suppressing their emotions.

(Video) The Attachment Theory: How Childhood Affects Life

Are attachment patterns stable from childhood to adulthood?

Perhaps the most provocative and controversial implication of adult attachment theory is that a person's attachment style as an adult is shaped by their interactions with parental caregivers. Although the idea that early attachment experiences can impact attachment style in romantic relationships is relatively uncontroversial, hypotheses about theThose onesYGraduateThe overlaps between the two types of attachment orientations are controversial.

There are at least two questions involved when considering the issue of stability: (a) How similar are the experiences of security people have with different people in their lives (eg mothers, fathers, romantic partners)? and (b) how stable is the certainty of any of these relationships over time?

Related to that first question, there seems to be a modest overlap between people's sense of security in their mothers, for example, and their sense of security in their romantic partners. Fraley, for example, collected self-reports of an individual's current attachment style with a significant father figure and a current romantic partner and found correlations between about 0.20 and 0.50 (i.e., low to moderate) between the two types of attachment relationships. 🇧🇷Click here to take an online questionnaire designed to assess how similar your attachment styles are to different people in your life.]

Regarding the second problem, the stability of attachment to parents seems to correspond to a correlation of about 0.25 to 0.39 (Fraley, 2002). There is only one longitudinal study that we know of that has examined the association between being secure at age 1 in the odd situation and the same people being secure 20 years later in their romantic relationships as adults. This unpublished study revealed a correlation of 0.17 between these two variables (Steele, Waters, Crowell & Treboux, 1998).

The relationship between early attachment experiences and adult attachment styles has also been examined in retrospective studies. Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that adults who were secure in their romantic relationships were more likely to remember their childhood relationships with their parents as loving, caring, and tolerant (see also Feeney & Noller, 1990).

Based on this type of study, it seems likely that attachment styles in the parent-child domain and attachment styles in the romantic relationship domain are, at best, only moderately related. What are the implications of such findings for adult attachment theory? According to some authors, the most important proposition of the theory is that the attachment system, a system originally adapted for the ecology of childhood, continues to influence behavior, thinking and feelings in adulthood (see Fraley and Shaver, 2000). This statement may be true regardless of whether individual differences in how the system is organized remain stable for a decade or more and remain stable across different types of intimate relationships.

Although the social and cognitive mechanisms cited by attachment theorists imply that stability in attachment style may be the rule rather than the exception, these fundamental mechanisms may predict both long-term continuity and discontinuity, depending on how precisely they are conceptualized. (Fraley, 2002). 🇧🇷 Fraley (2002) discussed two continuation models derived from attachment theory that make different predictions about long-term continuity even though they are derived from the same basic theoretical principles. Each model assumes that individual differences in attachment representations are shaped by different experiences with early childhood caregivers and that these early representations, in turn, shape the quality of the individual's later attachment experiences. However, one model assumes that existing representations will be updated and revised in light of new experiences, eventually "overwriting" older representations. Mathematical analyzes revealed that this model predicts that the long-term stability of individual differences will approach zero. The second model is similar to the first, but additionally assumes that representational models developed in the first year of life are retained (ie, not replaced) and continue to influence relational behavior throughout life. Analysis of this model showed that long-term stability can approach a limit other than zero. Importantly, developmental models can be derived from principles of attachment theory, which make remarkably different predictions about the long-term stability of individual differences. Given this finding, the existence of long-term stability of individual differences should be considered an empirical question rather than aassumptionto theory.

Open questions and future directions for adult attachment research

There are a number of questions that current and future addiction research must address. For example, some romantic relationships are likely to be truly committed relationships, while others are not. Future researchers will need to find ways to better determine whether a relationship actually performs attachment-related functions. Second, while it is clear why attachment behaviors in childhood may play an important role in development, it is unclear whether adult attachment plays an important role in development. Third, we still don't have a deep understanding of the exact factors that can change a person's attachment style. To improve people's lives, it will be necessary to better understand the factors that promote attachment security and well-being in relationships.

(Video) Brief Overview of Attachment Theory

© 2018 R. Chris Fraley

For more information on attachment theory and research, pleaselook in the bookOmri, Gery and I wrote.


What is Bowlby's attachment theory summary? ›

Bowlby's evolutionary theory of attachment suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive. A child has an innate (i.e. inborn) need to attach to one main attachment figure. This is called monotropy.

What are the 4 theories of attachment? ›

Bowlby identified four types of attachment styles: secure, anxious-ambivalent, disorganised and avoidant.

What is attachment theory in older adults? ›

According to the attachment theory, attachment style appears to have lifelong effects, and determine how individuals cope with their interpersonal problems during their lives [13, 22,23,24]. Therefore, secure attachment is thought to be a protective resource for the elderly as well [25].

What is attachment theory and why it is important? ›

In particular, attachment theory highlights the importance of a child's emotional bond with their primary caregivers. Disruption to or loss of this bond can affect a child emotionally and psychologically into adulthood, and have an impact on their future relationships.

What is the conclusion of attachment theory? ›

Children have a basic, evolved need for attachment to other individuals who can provide security as well as supplying physical needs such as food, warmth, clothing and shelter. Children can and do form multiple attachments with those people around them who provide ongoing care.

What are the principles of attachment theory? ›

There are three major functions of attachment relationships—to promote proximity seeking, provide a safe haven, and offer a secure base—all of which facilitate self-regulation and emotion regulation.

How does attachment theory affect adults? ›

Adults who experienced positive attachment as infants are more likely to form more satisfying adult relationships. Where there is poor attachment and a child cannot rely on those around them to care for them and respond to their needs, they may become anxious, insecure and have low self-esteem.

What are the five categories of attachment? ›

While that puts quite a burden on parents' shoulders, it's important to remember that everyone makes their own choices.
  • Secure attachment. ...
  • Anxious-insecure attachment. ...
  • Avoidant-insecure attachment. ...
  • Disorganized-insecure attachment.
25 Sept 2020

What is the most common attachment style in adults? ›

The secure attachment style is the most common type of attachment in western society. Research suggests that around 66% of the US population is securely attached. People who have developed this type of attachment are self-contented, social, warm, and easy to connect to.

How does attachment therapy work in adults? ›

Attachment-based therapy aims to build or rebuild a trusting, supportive relationship that will help prevent or treat mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

What is the best therapy for attachment disorder in adults? ›

Psychodynamic Therapy is better suited to adults, and explores how past relationships with parents or caregivers may influence current relationships, patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior.

Why is attachment theory important in research? ›

The attachment behavior system is an important concept in attachment theory because it provides the conceptual linkage between ethological models of human development and modern theories on emotion regulation and personality.

What is the most important factor in attachment? ›

According to attachment theory, the most important factor in the development of attachment pattern is an infant's experience of caregiver response in times of distress. The research provides some support for this view. Parenting style has a significant impact on an infant's attachment behaviour.

What are the criticisms of attachment theory? ›

A serious limitation of attachment theory is its failure to recognize the profound influences of social class, gender, ethnicity, and culture on personality development. These factors, independent of a mother's sensitivity, can be as significant as the quality of the early attachment.

What interventions are used in attachment theory? ›

There are basically two broad types of intervention programs designed to enhance the quality of mother-infant attachment: (1) those that endeavour to help the parents become more sensitive to infant cues; and (2) those that attempt to change parents' representations of how they were cared for by their own parents.

Why is attachment theory important for mental health? ›

Your attachment style can impact your mental health in several ways. Research shows that an insecure attachment style can shape your mood, how you view yourself, and how you cope. Insecure attachment styles are linked with: anxiety.

How does attachment theory explain behavior? ›

Attachment theory explains how the parent-child relationship emerges and influences subsequent development. Attachments are most likely to form with those who responded accurately to the baby's signals, not the person they spent more time with. Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsiveness.

How do adults resolve attachment issues? ›

An adult may find attachment therapy or couples counseling useful. Attachment therapy focuses on helping a person overcome the impact of negative early experiences with attachment. Couples counseling can help people see how an attachment disorder may be affecting their relationship.

How do adults overcome attachment issues? ›

Five ways to overcome attachment insecurity
  1. Get to know your attachment pattern by reading up on attachment theory. ...
  2. If you don't already have a great therapist with expertise in attachment theory, find one. ...
  3. Seek out partners with secure attachment styles. ...
  4. If you didn't find such a partner, go to couples therapy.
13 Feb 2014

What is the most damaging attachment style? ›

The most difficult type of insecure attachment is the disorganized attachment style. It is often seen in people who have been physically, verbally, or sexually abused in their childhood.

What are 2 key features of attachment? ›

1) Proximity Maintenance – The desire to be near the people we are attached to. 2) Safe Haven – Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. 3) Secure Base – The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment.

What are the 3 theoretical perspectives on attachment? ›

The prevailing hypotheses are: 1) that secure attachment is the most desirable state, and the most prevalent; 2) maternal sensitivity influences infant attachment patterns; and 3) specific infant attachments predict later social and cognitive competence.

Which attachment style is hardest to change? ›

"Disorganized attachment style is said to be the most difficult of the three insecure attachment styles to treat or change," Feuerman says. But it's important to know that your attachment style can shift over time — you can develop a secure attachment style by changing the way you act and think.

Why do adults have attachment issues? ›

While the causes of attachment disorders may vary, experts believe these may be the result of inadequate caregiving. Examples may include experiencing physical or emotional abuse or neglect or experiencing a traumatic loss.

Why is attachment important for adults? ›

Securely attached adults are more calm and confident, have less depression and anxiety, have a more positive outlook, sustain a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, are able to maintain intimate and reciprocal relationships, and are better able to cope with life's challenges and hardships, as compared to those lacking ...

Is attachment theory evidence based? ›

There are currently no evidence-based therapies for attachment-based disorders because researchers haven't yet had the time or funding for repeat studies or longitudinal studies.

How do therapists use attachment theory? ›

An attachment-based approach to therapy looks at the connection between an infant's early attachment experiences with primary caregivers, usually with parents, and the infant's ability to develop normally and ultimately form healthy emotional and physical relationships as an adult.

What is the aim of attachment-based therapy? ›

The therapist's objective is to get the patient to open up to them so the patient can explore the experiences that are causing them to have dysfunctional relationships and to recreate the experience from the point of view of the therapist in order to resolve any emotional or social disruptions within the patient's life ...

What mental illness causes attachment issues? ›

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a condition where a child doesn't form healthy emotional bonds with their caretakers (parental figures), often because of emotional neglect or abuse at an early age. Children with RAD have trouble managing their emotions.

Can adults recover from attachment disorder? ›

Although coping with relational trauma can be difficult, it is possible to heal from it. The trauma itself will not go away, but you can learn to deal with it in a healthy way. There are many effective treatments for addressing relational trauma. Finding a trauma-focused therapist is a good start.

What mental illness has attachment issues? ›

Children who have attachment issues can develop two possible types of disorders: Reactive Attachment Disorder and Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder.

What are Bowlby's stages of attachment? ›

Examples: The Types, Styles, and Stages (Secure, Avoidant, Ambivalent, and Disorganized)

When was Bowlby's theory of attachment? ›

Bowlby's first formal statement of attachment theory, building on concepts from ethology and developmental psychology, was presented to the British Psychoanalytic Society in London in three now classic papers: “The Nature of the Child's Tie to His Mother” (1958), “Separation Anxiety” (1959), and “Grief and Mourning in ...

What are the 3 characteristics of attachment? ›

1) Proximity Maintenance – The desire to be near the people we are attached to. 2) Safe Haven – Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. 3) Secure Base – The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment.

What are the major assumptions of attachment theory? ›

Attachment theory is based on the premise that all human beings are biologically programmed to seek comfort and safety through proximity to a reliable and protective caregiver.

Who introduced attachment theory? ›

The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.


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6. Attachment Theory - How childhood attachments influence adult relationships - John Bowlby
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