Clinical Applications of Attachment Theory
Alicia F. Lieberman Jeree H. Pawl Infant--Parent Program University of California San Francisco
The field of infant mental health includes a broad spectrum of disciplines and approaches to promoting the well-being and development of infants. Activities within the field range from clinical interventions of various kinds of research efforts intended to explore the different parameters of development and their possible vicissitudes. Researchers and clinicians alike share an interest in elucidating how maturation and development unfold in the context of diverse sociocultural conditions, varying human relationships, genetic and temperamental differences, and the mutual influences among these factors. Another common interest is the effort to understand how early development influences later development. There is a broad professional consensus that early functioning and experience affect later functioning, although there may be disagreement about the potency of these influences and about the nature of the causal mechanisms underlying this effect.
Among infant mental health clinicians, an additional endeavor is to promote societal concern for the developing infant and to educate and intervene in instances where the infant's well-being is at risk. Even within the clinical realm, however, there is a wide spectrum of approaches to intervention. A major difference among programs is the extent to which the parent-child relationship is the primary focus of the intervention. In many infant programs, focus is either on the parent or the infant as individual recipients of treatment. Some programs emphasize direct work with the infants, as in settings where an "infant curriculum" is used to encourage attainment of developmental milestones. Other programs seek to alleviate the parent's personal difficulties as a means of reducing stress