Social Work Theories in Action

By Mary Nash; Robyn Munford et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 14
Attachment Issues and Work
with Adolescents

Nikki Evans and Marie Connolly


Introduction

Literature and research focusing on the nature, prevalence and stability of attachment patterns often implicitly convey secure attachment patterns as an ideal or a goal. As such, theorists have viewed secure attachment as a 'prototype' (Fletcher 2002). However, insecure attachment patterns cannot be considered rare when they are displayed by a significant percentage of young children (Fletcher 2002). For example, Howe (1995) reports that 40 per cent of children display insecure attachment patterns, of which 25 per cent are assessed as avoidant, 10 per cent ambivalent, and 5 per cent as disorganized attachment styles. Significantly, longitudinal research has generally demonstrated the endurance of attachment patterns (Daniel and Taylor 2001), highlighting the importance of attachment style stability over time and across the lifespan. Given the potentially widespread significance of insecure attachment styles and their enduring nature, adolescent attachment issues are likely to be of concern to practice. This chapter, in this section, builds on the previous ones by exploring issues of attachment specifically in the context of adolescent work. It discusses the formation of internal models of attachment, and considers the relevance of attachment theory to practice within the residential placement setting, and family work following transition from residential care. Issues for practice are explored, with particular reference to cross-cultural issues.


Internal models of attachment

By definition, attachment is relational – it concerns the nature of relationships between people. Neglect, maltreatment and abuse always occur in the context of relationships (George 1996). Young people who are raised in difficult and

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