chapter  12
13 Pages

Attachment in African Caribbean families

ByLENNOX K. THOMAS

Understanding attachment behaviour and its role in the life cycle is important when working across cultures. This chapter focuses on therapeutic work with people from Caribbean communities and what needs to be considered when using attachment theory. Beginning with the history of attachment and loss, the chapter moves on to consider mental health in Caribbean communities. A case study of a Caribbean man is used to identify attachment based practice. Being without ethnic frontier, attachment theory is useful if we can understand its adapted styles in different communities. Studies conducted by Ainsworth (1967) in different countries with a variety of parents and infants from different cultural backgrounds focused on child-rearing styles and attachment. From studies in Uganda and the USA, Ainsworth developed and categorised the Attachment Styles – Secure, Avoidant and Resistant/Ambivalent – on the basis of how the infant responds to a series of separations and reunions with their mother. Main and Weston (1982) and Hesse and Main (2000) later described the category of infants who displayed a Disorganised attachment style. Despite the establishment of these ‘cross-cultural’ systems of classi¿ cations of individual differences in attachment, observations of caregivers and infants have demonstrated a range of different attachment behaviours and caregiving practices across cultures, including multiple caregiving and the suckling of other mother’s babies (Marvin et al. 1977). In an interesting study based on attachment patterns in the USA and Japan, Rothbaum and colleagues (2000) consider the cultural difference that skews ¿ ndings in attachment research. The authors found that descriptors such as autonomy and independence are linked to Western individualism, which would affect the lens through which attachment theorists see behaviour. Attachment theory, they believe, is infused with Western assumptions. Whilst attachment is a basic human behaviour, adaptation is dependent on cultural, economic and social factors (Thomas 1996). In order to work effectively across cultural and ethnic boundaries, a close view of the context is therefore always important.