A Wider View of Attachment
during the Years of Immaturity
KLAUS E. GROSSMANN
Evaluating stability and change in attachment organization during infancy and childhood depends greatly on one’s interpretation of attachment theory and on the particular methods one uses to assess attachment quality. In this chapter, we extend Ainsworth’s argument (e.g., Ainsworth, 1985a) that exploration is an integral component of infant–parent relationships, and that security is a reflection of the way an individual balances exploration and attachment and the way his or her caregivers facilitate this balance.
We are not proposing to expand the concept of attachment per se. Instead we want to emphasize the broader functions of parent–child relationships. In our discussion of Ainsworth’s concept of attachment–exploration balance, we differentiate between a wider and a narrower view of infant–caregiver relationships (Grossmann & Grossmann, 1990). The narrow view is concerned primarily with an individual’s response to the real or possible loss of an attachment figure. Most research on attachment has been conducted with this view in mind and has focused on the individual’s appraisals of potentially distressing situations and the regulation of emotions and behavior in response to such circumstances. In our wider view of attachment and exploration, the organization of attachment behavior as a response to separation or loss is still very important, but we pay more attention to the full range of adaptive consequences of different attachment patterns, especially to consequences that can be understood in terms of exploration. As we will discuss, exploration plays an important role in preventing and coping with adversity. Thus, in the development of adaptive capacities, parental sensitivity to the entire range of infant emotional signals—some having to do with attachment/separation and some with exploration—is important.
In this chapter, research findings on stability and change in attachment development in infancy and childhood are reexamined with the attachment–exploration balance foremost in mind. Our focus is on the ways in which exploration is facilitated or inhibited by the quality of the attachment relationship. We also focus on the degree to which attachment assessment methods consider both (1) emotion regulation during separation or other intense distress and (2) emotion regulation during challenging exploration. We use the term “secure exploration” to indicate a pattern of exploration in which challenges are recognized, accurately assessed, and tackled realistically but not incautiously.