Understanding Attachment and Attachment Disorders: Theory, Evidence, and Practice

By Vivien Prior; Danya Glaser | Go to book overview

7 Introduction

Having outlined the nature of attachment and caregiving, it is now necessary to examine how they may be assessed. However convincing the theory may seem, it is unusable unless there is some way to assess or measure its components. Without reliable assessment it is impossible to test the theory, or to apply it in practice as a way of informing intervention.

What follows is not an exhaustive collection of all the assessment instruments available. Those included are classical, widely used or recently developed and show potential clinical usefulness.


Attachment

Assessments of attachment are described in Chapter 8. As previously stated (Chapter 2), attachment is a behavioural system. Children use their experiences with their caregivers to build up a schema or a picture of the responses they expect when they exhibit attachment-related behaviours, which become integrated into internal working models of the attachment figure and the self. Attachment can therefore be assessed through the behaviours observed when the attachment system is aroused, or by accessing the child's working models of attachment. It should be remembered that the distinction between behaviours and internal representations is not as clear as it may appear. The behaviours exhibited by the child are based on internal working models. If the child did not have such models on which to base their behaviour, their behaviours could not be regarded as anything but random. However, in young children, it is only possible to measure the behavioural expression of underlying internal working models. The latter can only be accessed when the child is able to give a direct expression to them.

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