Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment, and Family Support: A Practice and Assessment Model

Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment, and Family Support: A Practice and Assessment Model

Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment, and Family Support: A Practice and Assessment Model

Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment, and Family Support: A Practice and Assessment Model

Synopsis

Four scholars of social work at the University of East Anglia summarize the recent developments in understanding children's social development, especially in terms of development attachment theory, and how they can be used by professionals working in child welfare, maltreatment, family support, adoption, and residential and foster care.

Excerpt

The quality and character of children's close relationships is proving to be the central concept linking the myriad of factors that have a bearing on development. Relationships provide the key experience that connects children's personal and social worlds. It is within the dynamic interplay between these two worlds that minds form and personalities grow, behaviour evolves and social competence begins. All the more remarkable then that, until 30 years ago, only clinicians appeared to be interested in relationships. 'By an extraordinary omission', admits Hinde (1995: 1), 'the psychological sciences simply bypassed what is the most important issue in most people's lives -- the nature of interpersonal relationships.'

Increasingly, it is being recognised that, psychologically, the individual cannot be understood independently of his or her social and cultural context. The infant does not enter the world as an a priori discrete psychological being. Rather, the self and personality form as the developing mind engages with the world in which it finds itself. There is thus no hard boundary between the mental condition of individuals and the social environments in which they find themselves. It is the interaction between individuals and their experiences that creates personalities. This is the domain of the psychosocial. It is therefore becoming clear that those who are concerned about children's developmental well-being have to understand growth and behaviour as a psychosocial phenomenon.

This being the case, the quality and character of children's close relationships matter greatly, as do all the things that affect such relationships -- children's innate temperamental make-up, parents' own history of relationships, the stresses generated by the social and material environment. Of course, the quality of relationships will vary from family to family. Of particular interest to social workers is the recognition that adverse relationships upset children's ability to develop sound social and emotional understanding. Children raised in such environments may find interpersonal life stressful and frustrating. These frustrations may, in turn, lead to problem behaviours. Indeed, as George (1996: 411) observes, phenomena such as abuse . . .

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