Attachment and Psychopathology
K. CHASE STOVALL
KATHLEEN E. ALBUS
Bowlby (1969/1982, 1973, 1980) proposed a model of development with clearly articulated implications for psychopathology. According to this model, an infant’s development of an attachment to the caregiver is a key developmental task that influences not only the child’s representations of self and other, but also strategies for processing attachment-related thoughts and feelings. Attachment-related events, such as loss and abuse, lead to modifications in these internal representations and affect a child’s strategies for processing thoughts and feelings. Bowlby (1973, 1980) suggested that when children develop negative representations of self or others, or when they adopt strategies for processing attachment-related thoughts and feelings that compromise realistic appraisals, they become more vulnerable to psychopathology. In this chapter we consider how the quality of the infant’s attachment to his or her caregiver, subsequent attachment-related experiences, and concurrently assessed states of mind with regard to attachment (Main & Goldwyn, in press) may be related to risk for psychopathology or to psychological resilience in adulthood.
Infants develop expectations about their caregivers’ availability through interactions with primary caregivers. According to Bowlby (1969/ 1982), these expectations then serve as the basis for infants’ working models of the self and of the other. When experiences lead to a “confident expectation” (Winnicott, 1971) that caregivers will be lovingly responsive, infants develop a model of the self as loved and valued, and a model of the other as loving (Bretherton, 1985). This confidence allows infants to develop secure strategies for seeking out their caregivers when distressed or in need, with the expectation that needs will be met. When infants instead have experiences that lead them to expect caregivers to be rejecting or undependable, they develop a model of the self as unloved or rejected, and a model of the other as unloving or rejecting. These children do not expect that caregivers will be available when needed, and they develop alternative, insecure strategies for coping with their distress.
Insecure strategies vary primarily along the dimension of attempts to minimize or maximize the expression of attachment needs. When children use minimizing strategies, they defensively turn attention away from their distress and from issues of caregiver availability. They therefore have limited access to their own feelings and develop an unrealistic portrayal of parents’ availability. When children use maximizing strategies, they defensively turn their attention to their own