Attachment across the Life Cycle

Attachment across the Life Cycle

Attachment across the Life Cycle

Attachment across the Life Cycle


To explain and understand the patterns that attachment play in psychiatric and social problems a body of knowledge has sprung up which owes much to the pioneering work of the late John Bowlby. This book draws together recent theoretical contributions, research findings and clinical data from psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and ethologists from Britain, America and Europe.


The human infant's attachment to its mother (or other primary caregiver) is a prerequisite for survival and a test-bed for all the other attachments he or she will make. Out of this first relationship stems a set of expectations and assumptions which will influence subsequent relationships – and which will not easily be changed – or so attachment theory and the research which spawned it implies. If this theory is correct then we can expect it to shed light not only on the interpersonal problems which can bedevil individual and family life, but also the very essence of the large scale societies to which we belong.

In recent years two researchers have done more than anyone else to bring these issues to our attention and to provide us with the ideas and tools that we need; they are John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. The publication of the three volumes of Bowlby's impressive work Attachment and Loss (in 1969, 1973, and 1980) and of Ainsworth's reports of her 'strange situation' (Ainsworth and Wittig 1969; Ainsworth et al. 1978) established a new frame of reference for future work in this field.

Since then other researchers in many parts of the world and from many disciplines have been encouraged to follow up and develop their approaches. The result has been an accumulation of knowledge about a range of phenomena which had not previously been linked. The field enlightens our thinking about animal behaviour, child development, dynamic psychiatry, interpersonal psychology, sociology, and other areas.

Several attempts have been made to draw these researchers together, including two workshops which were hosted by the King Edward VII Memorial Fund in London during 1981 and 1988. The aims of these workshops were twofold: to facilitate the interchange of ideas between researchers and to produce a book which would represent and update the state of attachment theory and the practice which had arisen out of it. Thus they are both very much more than a routine report of a conference.

The first volume was entitled The Place of Attachment in Human Behaviour (eds Parkes and Stevenson-Hinde 1982). It demonstrated clearly the impressive body of knowledge which had grown out of the earlier work . . .

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