chapter
5 Pages

Attachment theory and research in context

Clinical implications
WithSeligman Stephen

Although they are often used to connote the whole of the infancy research shift toward the primacy of relationships, the terms “attachment” and “attachment theory” more specifically refer to a particular body of theory and research that began with John Bowlby’s (1969, 1980, 1988) seminal work of the first post-World War II decades. Drawing on primate research and direct observation of young children, he asserted that the child’s tie to its parents or other caregivers is a primary, autonomous system, rather than secondary to the drives and phantasies that traditional Freudians had held to be the core motivations. He defined the primary attachment system as observable at approximately one year, including distress on separation, relief on reunion, and exploration from the attachment figure as a secure base (Bowlby, 1969, 1988). Bowlby went on to reformulate the analytic theories of separation and defense in accord with emerging regulatory systems models, stressing the importance of affects, especially fear (Bowlby, 1973, 1980). He also proposed that parental care is a core requirement for species reproduction, embedding social motivation in a broader evolutionary biological perspective. (See also Slavin and Kriegman, 1992.)