From the beginning, attachment theory was intended to apply across the lifespan, “from the cradle to the

grave” as Bowlby (1979, p. 129) put it. In the title of a 1991 chapter celebrating Bowlby’s birthday,Ainsworth used the phrase “attachment . . . across the life cycle.” Despite this general lifespan orientation, however, most of the early research on attachment focused on the infant– parent relationship. Relatively little was said about attachment in later phases of the lifespan. Beginning with Hazan and Shaver (1987), there has been an extension and application of the theory to couple relationships, mainly in young adulthood. In that line of research,Ainsworth et al.’s (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) discoveries about individual differences in infants’ attachments to parents were extended rather directly, as if the very same ideas, and parallel measures, could be applied to different stages of life. That assumption is now being challenged. Another way in which theoretical extensions and generalizations were initially attempted was to assume that culture and context did not matter very much. As researchers moved, however, from focusing on fairly typical middleclass samples, it became evident that additional patterns of attachment, most notably the “disorganized” pattern (Main & Solomon, 1990), would have to be measured and conceptualized. The disorganized pattern is more common in samples of low socioeconomic status, partly because the conditions in which parenting occurs in those samples are far from optimal for engendering the “organized” patterns of insecure attachment (anxious and avoidant), let alone for fostering secure attachment.

In this special issue, some of the authors tackle these previously neglected complexities. Allen and Miga, for example, offer important evidence and ideas concerning attachment in adolescence. They show that the remarkably strong link, discovered in studies of infants and their parents, between a parent’s Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) classification and the Strange Situation classification of their infant is much weaker in adolescence, an age period in which the AAI can be administered to both parent and offspring. Allen and Miga also show that, in adolescence, the AAI is more strongly related to various aspects of emotion regulation and social competence in peer relations than it is to a parent’s AAI classification.This discovery causes Allen and Miga to question whether the AAI is, or ever was, a measure of adult “attachment.” When first developed, the AAI was meant to assess aspects of a parent’s (or parent-to-be’s) “state of mind regarding

attachment” that were predictive of the current or eventual attachment behavior of the parent’s infant, and it did this very effectively (Hesse, 2008), but without this fact necessarily making the AAI a measure of “attachment.” It could just as well be a measure of mental and social skills relevant to parenting a young child. AAI transcripts are coded in terms of discourse coherence, which is entwined with various kinds of social and communicative skills displayed by an interviewee, in interactions with both the interviewee’s child and the AAI interviewer. (Hesse (2008) explains this skill aspect of the AAI in terms of ability to “collaborate” with the interviewer.) When considered from this perspective, it is easier to see why an adolescent’s AAI classification might be associated with social and communicative skills exhibited in relationships with peers.The growing distance between a parent’s and an adolescent’s AAI classifications raises important questions concerning where the adolescent’s AAI “skills” come from. As an adolescent becomes more involved in peer relationships and (perhaps) less involved with parents, kinds of forces and experiences that attachment researchers have not yet considered may begin to influence the kinds of thinking and behavior assessed by the AAI. The core concept of attachment theory is that human infants are biologically predisposed at birth to seek and make strong emotional bonds with another. This occurs with a figure who gradually becomes the significant attachment figure. In the context of this relationship, the child is able to safely explore and experience the world using the attachment figure as a secure base to return to when afraid or startled. In time the child internalises the relationship as an Internal Working Model which is the outcome of the experience of being with someone or held in mind by a containing adult (Bion 1967, Winnicott 1964, Fonagy et al 1993, Stem 1977,1985) i. e. the attachment relationship. The quality of the attachment relationship influences the child's sense of self and self in relation to others, acting as an organiser of behaviour towards others in ways that persist into adult life affecting later relationships and choices (Sroufe 1983, Grossman and Grossman 1991). It is observed that children who have a warm, satisfying experience of early relationships are more likely to have a positive sense of self and more likely to make close and lasting relationships with others (Main and Cassidy 1988). In Bowlby's terms, a person who has experienced a secure attachment 'is likely to possess a representational model of attachment figure(s) as being available, responsive, and helpful and a complementary model of himself as ... a potentially

loveable and valuable person' (Bowlby 1980 p. 242) and is likely to 'approach the world with confidence and, when faced with potentially alarming situations, is likely to tackle them effectively or to seek help in doing so' (Bowlby 1973 p. 208).

Bowlby's original, basic premise was that deprivation of the maternal relationship resulted in severe psychological damage (Bowiby 1951,1953). Infants whose needs have not been adequately met in this respect see the world as 'comfortless and unpredictable and they respond either by shrinking from it or doing battle with it' (Bowlby 1973 p. 208). Bowlby's deprivation theory became modified and developed particularly in the context of his collaboration with Ainsworth and others whose experimental work has contributed much to the considerable development of Attachment Theory as it is understood today. The history of this development from Bowlby's early concepts to the present situation will be described and discussed as much of the theoretical interpretation of the material in the investigation derives from Attachment Theory, both from Bowlby's work and the work of the empiricists such as Ainsworth and Main.

From Maternal Deprivation to Attachment Theory : the origins and early development of Bowlby's work.

Bowlby first developed an interest in the effects on childhood of family experience in 1929 when he worked for a short time in a progressive school for delinquent boys and subsequently wrote the paper 'Forty-four juvenile thieves' (1944). He developed a sense of the origins of their difficulties in their unhappy and disrupted childhoods. Holmes (1993) describes Bowlby's own background. He came from a large middle class family with caring but distant parents and the children were cared for by nannies as was the style of the class and time. Given the nature of his theory, it is likely that his conviction about the significance of separation from the maternal relationship was influenced by his own experiences. He trained as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in the 1930s at a time of intellectual ferment, when his tendency to iconoclasm and rebelliousness may have found opportunity for expression. Bowlby's psychoanalytical training was in the Kleinian approach which believed in the primacy of the infant's inner world and intra-psychic processes. Infantile

impulses are transformed into the conflict of love and hate in relation to the object/mother and the role of the mother is then to help with the resolution of these conflicts. Holmes (1993) points out that Bowlby was never very comfortable with the psychoanalytic role. He was more interested in the interpersonal that the intrapsychic. His split with the psychoanalytic world revolved around the issue of whether the infant's relationship with its mother was a primary social bond or secondary to biological drives and inner fantasies.

He observed:

'A discrepancy between formulations springing directly from empirical observation and those made in the course of abstract discussion seems almost to be the rule in the case of analysts with first-hand experience of infancy - for example, Melanie Klein... In each case they have observed non-oral social interaction between mother and infant and, in describing it, have used terms suggesting a primary social bond. When they come to theorising about it however, each seems to feel a compulsion to give primacy to needs for food and warmth, and to suppose that social interaction develops only secondarily and as a result of instrumental learning' (Bowlby 1969 p. 430). Bowlby became more concerned to find scientific foundations for psychoanalytic theory and he was struck by the influence of traumatic experience on the lives of his clients. In particular he noted the impact of loss.

Bowlby was convinced both by ethological studies and from the Robertsons' work, that current psychoanalytic theories about the internal world in infancy did not adequately describe the development of neuroses and disturbed behaviour in later life. He was convinced that there were other environmental influences, in particular the experience of trauma, and more specifically, the experience of the trauma of separation and loss. His work for the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed this conviction. In 1950 Bowlby had taken up an appointment with the WHO to investigate the mental health problems of homeless and refugee children, following the war. From discussions with workers in the field and from the literature, Bowlby found a high degree of

agreement about the principles underlying the mental health of children. At that time he concluded that if children were separated from their mothers or primary care givers during the first few years of life, lasting psychological damage would result.

In his article, Cicirelli focuses on attachment processes in late life. Here and in his previous work (Cicirelli, 1993, 2004), Cicirelli examines relations between adult offspring and their elderly parents, as well as ways in which elderly people rely on God as a symbolic attachment figure. In the present article, Cicirelli shows that the identities of key attachment figures often change with age, as people become less socially active, suffer health problems, and react to significant losses (e.g., of a spouse). Cicirelli reminds us that the attachment measures we have developed to study romantic and other close relationships of adolescents and young adults may not be appropriate for assessing attachment later in life. The self-report attachment measures that evolved from Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) original measure of “romantic attachment” may not apply to elderly people who rely on their adult children as attachment figures. Similarly, the nature of an elderly person’s attachment to God is presumably different from “romantic attachment.” If one measures “attachment” with the AAI, rather than with self report questionnaires, other questions arise. Should we expect an elderly person’s AAI to be closely related to the person’s adult child’s AAI because the adult child is an attachment figure who has affected the elderly parent’s attachment pattern? Almost certainly not. If the two AAI classifications are similar (a matter that has not been studied extensively), the direction of causal influence is probably from parent to offspring rather than the other way around. Cicirelli (1993), although not using the AAI, realized quite early in his research that issues such as the degree of an adult daughter’s burden from caring for an aging parent was partly a consequence of the daughter–parent relationship earlier in life, not mainly a result of later factors. In addition to the issue of how attachment patterns and processes may operate, and how they should be measured at different phases of the lifespan, is the broader issue of how life experiences, including those affected by culture and economic and environmental conditions, influence attachment processes and outcomes.Van IJzendoorn and Bakermans-Kranenburg confront some of these issues in their article, showing in a comprehensive review of AAI studies that adolescents are more dismissing than other age groups, perhaps because many of them try to

become more autonomous from their parents, as Allen and Miga also note in their article. More striking is Van IJzendoorn and Bakermans-Kranenburg’s evidence that economically deprived adolescent mothers are especially likely to be dismissing on the AAI, perhaps because this is a functional approach to reproduction under harsh living conditions (Simpson & Belsky, 2008). Van IJzendoorn and Bakermans-Kranenburg do not find much evidence for cross-cultural differences, but – as they note – there have not been enough studies in non- Western societies to allow firm conclusions. Future research should take more, and more diverse, cultures into account.

Biological bases and correlates of attachment processes

Two of the articles, by Coan and by Diamond and Fagundes, consider biological and physiological aspects of attachment. Coan focuses on the brain, and Diamond and Fagundes focus on autonomic functioning. Both papers emphasize that little is known about the physiological aspects of adult attachment, even though they have been studied in non-human mammals and, to an extent, in human infants (see reviews by Fox & Hane, 2008, and Polan & Hofer, 2008).Coan suggests that what attachment researchers call the “attachment behavioral system” probably does not correspond to a single, distinct brain system. Instead, brain circuitry used for a range of purposes, such as social perception and memory, emotion, and emotion regulation, underlies attachment- related emotions and behavior as well. To our minds, one of Coan’s most interesting proposals, in his Social Baseline Theory (SBT), is that the human brain was constructed through evolution to rely on relationships with other people’s brains.That is, the default state of the brain depends on social regulation and self-other co-regulation.When a person is forced to survive without adequate co-regulation, the brain functions and develops in a non-optimal way, in line with what researchers have been showing indirectly all along while focusing on behavior.

According to SBT, the attachment system is a means of conserving brain resources by allowing one person to rely on another for various survival and self-regulatory purposes.Attachment patterns, viewed from the perspectives of SBT and life history theory, are the results of a child’s

efforts to conserve resources while operating in relationships with particular kinds of attachment figures. Social psychologists (e.g., Gailliot, 2009; Galliot & Baumeister, 2007) have proposed ways of conceptualizing, measuring, and manipulating the depletion of neural resources. Those ideas and methods could be used to test the possibility that attachment security, induced experimentally (as described by Carnelley and Rowe, in this issue, and used by Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007), protects a person from resource depletion in experimental situations designed to deplete neural resources. Diamond and Fagundes, in their article, summarize studies showing that attachment styles, measured primarily with self-report questionnaires, are associated with individual differences in autonomic nervous system activity, both phasic and tonic.They point out that, despite several creative and informative studies of attachment-related physiological processes, we cannot yet compile an integrative profile of such responses, nor do we have a good understanding of how and why certain physiological response patterns are congruent with self-reports of experience or are discrepant from them (as often happens in the case of avoidant individuals).We also do not know about similarities and differences between the physiological correlates of different kinds of attachment measures, such as the AAI and self-report questionnaires. Nor do we have couple studies that include measures of co-regulated or co-dysregulated physiological processes related to attachment measures. Provocative studies of couple members’ linked physiological responses during conflict discussions were conducted by Gottman and Levenson (1992), but they did not include attachment measures.Relations between the attachment system and other behavioral systems

One of the earliest ideas in attachment theory was that the functioning of one behavioral system, such as exploration, is dependent on the state of another behavioral system, such as attachment. An infant who views his or her parent as a secure base can explore and learn about the environment with fewer worries and less distraction. Three of the articles in this special issue address the matter of influences between behavioral systems. Feeney and Van Vleet extend Ainsworth et al.’s (1978) seminal research on the influence of attachment security and insecurity on exploratory behavior and personal growth into the realm of couple relationships. They provide strong support for Ainsworth et al.’s idea that secure attachment supports exploration; that is,

feeling close to and loved by another person is not just a goal in its own right, but is also a foundation for exploring new environments, objects, and ideas; enjoying learning and developing new skills; autonomously pursuing new goals; and realizing one’s potential and aspirations. Moreover, Feeney and Van Vleet show that accepting a degree of dependence and enjoying being comforted and supported by others allows a person, paradoxically, to become more autonomous and selfconfident. Along the way, it is important for the caregiving partner to show some of the types of sensitivity and responsiveness that Ainsworth et al. (1978) found to be important components of security-enhancing parental behavior. Insensitive, uncaring, or intrusive forms of reactions to bids for support interfere with understanding, validation, and caring: the three core components of partner responsiveness and intimacy (Reis & Shaver, 1988) in couple relationships that seem to be important for promoting autonomy and growth. Future studies should be designed to illuminate the psychological mechanisms that underlie the attachment–exploration link and the relevance of this link for relationship quality and life satisfaction across the lifespan. The same processes may play a role in determining the effectiveness of educational, organizational, and therapeutic processes.

In their article, Collins and Ford summarize another creative program of research on caregiving and its relation to attachment orientations. They reveal details about the forms of supportive or destructive caregiving interactions, and the benefits of responsive care for the care recipient. Collins and Ford’s research shows that a caregiver’s sense of attachment security facilitates sensitive and responsive caregiving, which protects care recipients from undue stress, promotes their health and welfare, and contributes to the quality of their relationships. Together with Feeney and Van Fleet’s article, the article by Collins and Ford highlights the two main benefits of secure attachment during different phases of life: a safe haven in times of threats or stresses and a secure base for exploration and personal development. As Collins and Ford mention, more research is needed to uncover possible benefits of effective caregiving for the caregivers themselves. According to attachment theory, both the attachment and the caregiving systems, which are viewed as products of evolution, should be associated with distinctive rewards and satisfactions. Although parents and supportive romantic partners undoubtedly know that successful support

makes a support-provider feel good, the nature of these feelings and their resilience in the face of fatigue and challenges remain largely unstudied.

In her article, Birnbaum focuses on another behavioral system, sex, and summarizes the growing body of research on the interplay of the attachment and sexual systems. She finds that attachment insecurities help to explain many of the sexual difficulties in couple relationships. She also shows that sexuality can be used as one of several strategies to achieve attachment-related goals. For example, following conflicts, anxiously attached individuals may seek sexual relations as a way to feel recognized, appreciated, and assured of being lovable. Birnbaum discusses the possibility that the interplay of sexuality and attachment is different in different stages of a relationship.As Hazan and Zeifman (1994) proposed some time ago, sexual attraction is an important force for bringing two people together and into intimate contact, which may provide the conditions for developing a romantic attachment. We still know relatively little, however, about the role of sexuality in attachment formation. For example, we do not know whether sexuality can overcome psychological barriers, such as avoidance, to secure attachment.We also do not have a theory or model of the explicitly dyadic, dynamic, interactive processes that connect sexuality with couple members’ attachment, or lack of attachment, to each other. Most studies of attachment and sexuality have not used dyadic or longitudinal research designs, so these are important goals for further research.

Extending attachment research in applied directions

From the beginning, Bowlby (1982) was interested in understanding attachment processes with the goal of improving parenting, psychotherapy, and social policies, especially for children. Because so much effort has gone into basic research, which was needed to clarify and validate the core propositions of attachment theory, only recently have the findings been used to create and evaluate interventions. Moreover, little research has been directed at attachment processes that are likely to exist in social domains other than dyadic relationships, for example in work organizations, schools, and societies.The last three articles in this special issue take up that

challenge. Carnelley and Rowe make an important contribution to the growing literature on the benefits of experimentally enhanced security.We (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007) had previously summarized a number of early experiments showing that both subliminal and supraliminal “security primes” (e.g., security-related picture or words, or the names or faces of security-providing attachment figures) can enhance security sufficiently to affect mood, selfesteem, intergroup tolerance, compassion, and altruism. However, little was known about what is happening in people’s minds when they receive security primes. Carnelley and Rowe investigated words used by individuals who described their experiences in security-priming experiments.They found that participants described states that were expected based on attachment theory: felt security, being cared for, a sense of communion, merging with another person, and affectionate nostalgia for past experiences of being loved. Interestingly, although security priming and self-affirmation (a procedure based on making a person’s values salient) often have similar effects (e.g., enhanced mood, increased self-esteem), security priming in Carnelley and Rowe’s studies did not make nonrelational values salient, which suggests that the underlying processes are not identical. Mallinckrodt, in his article, adds considerably to the interesting literature on the attachment aspects of psychotherapy. Bowlby (1988) himself wrote about the likelihood that clients come to view their therapists as attachment figures, as well as the importance of a therapist serving as a safe haven and secure base for a client. It was clear that Bowlby viewed therapeutic relationships as alternative and corrective attachment relationships, not simply as teacher–student or coach– trainee relationships. Mallinckrodt summarizes some of the research that supports Bowlby’s conception of psychotherapy, but goes beyond this conception by showing how a therapist should move from, at first, indulging some of an insecure client’s special needs to gradually challenging the client’s habitual patterns of relational behavior rooted in insecure attachment. Mallinckrodt reveals the limitations of previous studies that considered the dynamics of psychotherapy in terms of the therapist’s and the client’s attachment styles as static features of their personalities. A skilled therapist does not simply enact a single attachment, or caregiving, pattern, but instead flexibly alters the pattern to help a client move away from a previously insecure pattern of attachment.This analysis suggests important directions for future longitudinal, process-oriented research, which will require the recording of numerous therapy sessions and skillful attachment-relevant coding of

client–therapist interactions.

Finally, Mayseless, in her article, moves beyond intimate dyads to consider attachment dynamics in leader–follower relationships. Emphasizing Bowlby’s (1982) claim that attached individuals often perceive their attachment figure as “stronger and wiser,” and therefore as able to help with threats and problems, Mayseless explains how this kind of perception arises in followers who wish to trust and rely on their leader. She shows how the concept of transformational leadership in the field of organizational and political psychology corresponds with the concept of attachment security displayed by a leader. Although some promising studies based on this kind of analysis have been conducted (as reviewed by Mayseless), the prospects for novel research are numerous. For example, almost no attachment research has been done on the real or symbolic relations between political leaders and their followers, or on the ways in which attachment-related processes influence voting. Nor has anyone studied the feelings of loss that almost certainly occur when an admired teacher, coach, or leader passes away.


Attachment theory, derived principally from the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth et al(1969,1978) has provided us with a theoretical framework within which maternal attachment can be seen to be a key factor in childrens' development. Attachment theory proposes the singular importance of the maternal attachment relationship but does not ignore the possibility of reparative influence of other significant relationships, including teachers and the learning environment of the school. The experience of the attachment relationship contributes to a child's repertoire of emotional and behavioural responses which it carries forward into life experiences and clearly carries forward into the learning situation.

References Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1991). Attachment and other affectional bonds across the life cycle. In C. M. Parkes, J. Stevenson-Hinde, & P. Marris (Eds.), Attachment across the life cycle (pp. 33–51). New York: Routledge. Ainsworth, M.D. S., Blehar, M.C.,Waters, E.,& Wall, S. (1978).Patterns of attachment:Assessed in the Strange Situation and at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Bowlby, J. (1979). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. London: Tavistock. Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books. (Orig. ed. 1969.) Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge. Cicirelli,V.G. (1993).Attachment and obligation as daughters’ motives for caregiving behavior and subsequent effect on subjective burden. Psychology and Aging, 8, 144–155. Cicirelli,V. G. (2004). God as the ultimate attachment figure for older adults. Attachment and Human Development, 6, 371–388. Fox, N. A., & Hane, A. A. (2008). Studying the biology of human attachment. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment:Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 217–240). New York: Guilford Press. Gailliot, M. T. (2009). The effortful and energy-demanding nature of prosocial behavior. In M. Mikulincer & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Prosocial motives, emotions, and behavior: The better angels of our nature (pp. 169–180).Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Gailliot, M.T., & Baumeister, R. F. (2007).The physiology of willpower: Linking blood glucose to self-control. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 303–327. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R.W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: Behavior, physiology, and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 221–233. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511–524. Hazan, C., & Zeifman, D. (1994). Sex and the psychological tether. In K. Bartholomew & D. Perlman (Eds.), Advances in personal relationships: Attachment processes in adulthood (Vol. 5, pp. 151–177). London: Jessica Kingsley. Hesse, E. (2008).The Adult Attachment Interview: Protocol, method of analysis, and empirical studies. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 552–598). New York: Guilford Press. Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth strange situation. In M. T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti, & M. Cummings (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years: Theory, research, and intervention (pp. 121–160). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2007). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change. New York: Guilford Press. Polan, H. J., & Hofer, M. A. (2008). Psychobiological origins of infant attachment and its role in development. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 158–172). New York: Guilford Press. Reis, H. T., & Shaver, P. R. (1988). Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of research in personal relationships (pp. 367–389). London:Wiley. Simpson, J. A., & Belsky, J. (2008). Attachment theory within a modern evolutionary framework. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 131–157). New York: Guilford Press.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful