Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications

By Jude Cassidy; Phillip R. Shaver | Go to book overview

Epilogue
Attachment Theory
Eighteen Points with Suggestions
for Future Studies

MARY MAIN

Readers who have completed this long and excellent volume have undoubtedly deepened their understanding of the field, and in consequence are now well equipped for further studies and applications. This epilogue is organized around 18 central points that I often make when lecturing or teaching about attachment theory and research. Several have already been elucidated in this volume, but are listed here again simply because I have found them to be readily missed by, or to represent special points of confusion for, new audiences. Others, while of central interest to the field are, I believe, still controversial and/or indicate places where data are incomplete. Some are simply heuristic devices of my own making.

The reader will find a persistent theme among my comments and suggestions for future study. I call first for an increased effort to integrate the field of attachment as it currently stands. For example, I suggest that the discovery of “hidden regulators” in infant–mother interactions, to date confined largely to animals, should be investigated in humans as well, while interview methods of assessing attachment should be combined with self-report methods. In addition, I suggest that having identified a phenomenon as remarkably stable, closely linked to identifiable aspects of experience, and clearly predictive of both health and psychopathology as attachment is, researchers within the field should now begin to attempt to forge links with fields that are currently somewhat separated. Although I have room to focus upon only one or two of the fields now open to us, these include attention, memory, and other aspects of cognitive psychology; linguistics; and connections between both the general phenomena of attachment and individual differences in its expression on the one hand, and psychophysiology and the brain on the other. Given recent advances in cognitive and affective neuroscience, I am especially intrigued by opportunities to further our understanding of the neural circuitry underlying both attachment phenomena in general, and differences observed in its organization and disorganization.

Before embarking on the epilogue proper, I would like to add three personal notes. First, rather than serving as a review of the contents of this volume, this epilogue was begun as a separate undertaking well before the volume was completed. It does not serve as a review of the volume or its contents, which are remarkably broad. Second, although one of the primary contributions of this volume will be to provide the background necessary for integrating attachment as seen in studies of animal behavior; attachment as seen in direct observations of infants, children, and adults via either film or interview methods; and attachment as studied within the traditions of personality and social psychology, my own training and research have followed the second of these traditions. Consequently, my

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