Building on the Foundations of Attachment Theory

Patricia Pendry Northwestern University In Cardillo's "Intimate Relationships: Personality Development through Interaction during Early Life," she introduces the reader to the concept that intimate relationships that one develops in infancy form the basis of relationships throughout a lifetime, and form the basis of people's personality. Cardillo identifies a number of developmental stages and gives examples of factors that directly and indirectly influence the development of an individual's personality traits. She has thoroughly researched each stage and is able to relate to the reader the essential changes a person experiences on the road to adulthood and fully developed personality. Her proposed theory is well outlined and well written and derives strength from its strong roots in attachment theory, on which it is based. Attachment theorists have discovered years ago what developmental scientists and researchers from around the world have come to see as the most acceptable perspective on attachment, that of ethological theory. And this is where Cardillo's first weakness comes to light. Although references are made to "adaptations to changing needs and stresses," Cardillo does not discuss the ethological nature of attachment theory. Ethologists believe that children's behaviors can be best understood in terms of their adaptive value. Therefore, ethologists seek a full understanding of the entire organism-environment system, including physical, social, and cultural aspects (Hinde, 1989). Although ethology emphasizes the genetic and biological roots of development, learning is also considered important because it lends flexibility and adaptiveness to behavior. This would certainly challenge Cardillo's summary statement that "development of a unique interpersonal style is a function of temperament." Although the interaction between a child's temperament and environment certainly plays an important role in the development of a "personal style," we cannot ignore the influence learning has on each individual's development, and it deserves some attention as a factor important to the development of personality. Cardillo goes on to introduce us to both psychodynamic and behaviorist factors that potentially play an important part in the development of intimate relationships. "During infancy, the baby obtains nourishment and pleasure from sucking at the mother's breasts thus reducing tension caused by the hunger drive." Cardillo states that engagement in such tension relieving activity (relieving the hunger drive) during this early stage of intimacy serves as the prototype for relationships that develop later on in life. However, I tend to disagree. We need only to remember Harlow's monkey experiment with the mesh-wire mothers (Harlow & Zimmerman, 1959) to remind us that it seriously challenged the view of social learning theorists and psychoanalysts who viewed attachment mainly as a function of feeding. In the development of attachment, contact and comfort appeared to be most important, not feeding. Although Carillo does hint that comfort too plays an important role, she does not seem to challenge or question McAdams' opinions and references on the subject of sucking and intimacy (McAdams, 1989, pp. 71-81) by comparing them with opposing empirical evidence. What is most lacking in this paper is a thorough discussion of empirical evidence supporting attachment theory. This is important because the author agrees that intimate relationships formed during infancy form the basis of individual development. Throughout Cardillo's argument she refers back to the importance of secure attachment and the role it plays in the development of intimate relationships throughout a person's life. It seems clear that

Cardillo is a proponent of attachment theory and that she has taken the essential arguments of attachment theory as a basis of her own theory. That is why this paper requires a thorough discussion and overview of attachment theory as well as a critical review of evidence to support it. It is simply not possible to discuss the essence of attachment theory in one paragraph as Cardillo has done. We are introduced to Bowlby and Ainsworth in three sentences even though Bowlby and Ainsworth are the pioneers of attachment theory. What Cardillo should have done is provide the reader with a good understanding of attachment theory by identifing how Ainsworth measured attachment and how she identified the different forms of attachment. Also, it would be helpful to highlight how the development of secure attachment in infancy influences a person's intimate relationships in later life. In addition, because so much of Cardillo's theory is based on attachment theory, it would have been helpful if she had discussed the strengths and weaknesses of attachment theory in general by looking at recent research. We simply cannot ignore the extensive body of research, generated by the work of Ainsworth and Bowlby, focused on understanding the social, emotional, and interpersonal development of children. There is substantial empirical evidence that questions, challenges, and supports the existence of the core elements of attachment theory. This type of review and highlight of research in support of the foundations of attachment theory should have been used to strengthen Cardillo's proposed theory and would have shed a much brighter light on Cardillo's hypothesis, which the hypothesis deserves.