Understanding Attachment: Parenting, Child Care, and Emotional Development

Understanding Attachment: Parenting, Child Care, and Emotional Development

Understanding Attachment: Parenting, Child Care, and Emotional Development

Understanding Attachment: Parenting, Child Care, and Emotional Development

Synopsis

This book explores a critical part of human life and emotional growth, our preference for familiar people and our emotional ties to them, often called attachment. The author defines attachment and related terms, discusses the history of the idea, and describes ways in which this aspect of emotional life can be measured. By stressing developmental change, the work examines the way attachment continues to alter from infancy into adulthood, as well as its influence on our social relationships. The importance of children's early social experiences with parents and other caregivers is emphasized, as are useful applications of attachment theory in childcare, adoption, divorce, and other practical situations. Outcomes of good and poor attachment experiences are discussed, and there is a chapter on the complicated question of attachment disorders. Popular beliefs about attachment are analyzed, including the assumptions often made by judges when making custody decisions. The final chapter deals with social changes that may actually alter common childhood attachment experiences and looks at some emerging ways of thinking about early emotional development.

Excerpt

I first thought about writing this book while I was sitting in a courtroom. I was observing the trial of two unlicensed therapists who had managed to kill a child they were treating and who had done so partly because they did not understand the facts about attachment (part of this story is told in Chapter 7 of this book). Expert witness after expert witness testified, and the word [attachment] was used many times—but no one said what it meant. I looked at the jury to see if they looked confused. They didn't seem to be having any problem. I waited for the judge to ask them if they understood the term, for the prosecutor—for anybody at all—to inquire whether the jury understood this important issue. No one did. No member of the jury asked for a definition, either.

During a break, I sidled up to one of the prosecutors and asked her whether anyone was going to tell the jury what attachment was. She smiled pleasantly and murmured something, but her thoughts were obviously on other issues, such as conviction. I minded my own business, then, because I thought what the therapists had done was seriously wrong, and I wanted them to be convicted, too. If the prosecutor could manage without having the jury understand what attachment was, that was fine with me. (They were convicted and are serving sixteen-year sentences, by the way.)

Nevertheless, I was puzzled. [Attachment] is referred to and discussed daily in the twenty-first-century United States. As you will see in this book, legal decisions about children are made on the basis of this concept. We seem to be living in the [Age of Attachment] rather than the Age of . . .

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