Attachment Theory I
Geoff Goodman, Ph.D.
I. Bowlby’s Model of
A. Prolonged separation-- key feature of
1. “affectionless”
2. stealing
B. Reactions to prolonged separation
1. protest
2. despair
3. detachment
C. Five attachment behaviors to elicit
care and protection
1. smiling
2. crying
3. clinging
4. following
5. sucking
D. Difference between object relations and
attachment theories
1. object relations: goal= mother
2. attachment: goal= physical proximity to
3. later, in attachment theory, goal becomes
felt security
E. Exploratory behavioral system
1. activated when felt security prevails
2. deactivated when caregiver is absent
F. Fear system
1. activates attachment system in
response to natural cues of danger
a. unfamiliarity
b. sudden noise
c. isolation
2. deactivated when caregiver
becomes available again
G. Patterns of affect
1. down-regulate (avoidant)
2. up-regulate (resistant)
3. expectations of interactive attributes of early
caregivers influence these patterns
H. Additional differences between attachment
and psychoanalytic theories
1. use of ethology as a basis for human behavior
2. emphasis on relationships over drives
3. external environment privileged over internal
4. emphasis on empirical research over clinical
case reports
5. de-emphasis on Oedipus complex
6. de-emphasis on unconscious fantasy
7. de-emphasis on biological vulnerability
8. de-emphasis on bodily pleasures
9. reduction of etiology of trauma to physical
10. temperament excluded as influence on
development of IWMs
II. Theory of
A. Developmental pathways model
1. dismissing strategy-- overregulated,
dismissing of feelings, especially
vulnerable feelings
2. preoccupied strategy-- underregulated,
entangled in feelings, especially
vulnerable feelings
3. unresolved “strategy”-- absence of
strategy or controlling strategy to
counteract vulnerable feelings
B. Activation strategy related to dialectic
between two different needs
1. sense of relatedness (hyperactivated end of
2. sense of autonomous identity (deactivated
end of continuum)
3. two types of depression
a. anaclitic-- need for approval
b.introjective-- perfectionists (dismissing)
4. attachment theory can help refine our
predictions about psychopathology by focusing
on representational differences
C. Disorganized/ unresolved
1. caregiver’s lack of resolution of
trauma < age 16
2. frightened or frightening caregiver
a. dissociated behavior
b. angry, hostile behavior
c. mixed messages-- eliciting and rejecting
attachment (Lyons-Ruth et al., 1999)
D. Continuity of
1. quality of care can change, but IWM stays
the same (IWMs increasingly resistant to
2. representations are derived from
expectations developed over time
3. caregiver behavior influences long-term
development of infant’s physiological and
behavioral regulatory systems that control
stress responses (e.g., D infants and
cortisol levels)
4. psychopathology might serve adaptive
function to regulate caregiver
relationships and maximize felt
5. lack of mentalization can disrupt
relationships and reduce felt security,
which further hinders mentalizing
III. Advances in Attachment
A. Karlen Lyons-Ruth
1. relational diathesis model-- D
attachment predisposes individual to
further trauma
2. direct and indirect disorganization
related to later outcome
B. Morris Eagle
1. IWMs reflect fantasy as well as actual
a.not temperament affecting actual care
b.a temperament (fantasy) can influence
perception of that care
c.but IWMs can control gene expression
2. Oedipal conflicts are a byproduct of
insecure attachment
C. Jeremy Holmes
1. three prototypical pathologies of
narrative capacity
a. clinging to rigid stories (dismissing)
b. feeling overwhelmed by un-storied
experience (preoccupied)
c. inability to find strong narrative to
contain traumatic pain (preoccupied)
2. treatment
a. story breaking-- rethinking narrative in
more coherent fashion
b. story making-- elaborating on a healing
story to enhance consciousness of one’s
own mental life
c. dismissing patients-- need to break open
self-contained narrative
d. preoccupied patients-- capturing confusion
and overwhelmed feelings in narrative
e. unresolved patients-- finding narrative for
traumatic pain
D. Arietta Slade
1. dynamics of attachment informs rather
than defines intervention strategies
2. listening to linguistic cues and gaps in
3. functions of this close linguistic listening
a. suggests organizing events in early
b. allows therapist to imagine patient’s earliest
experiences and how they impacted patient
c. enhances therapist’s empathy by imagining
patient’s caregiving experiences concretely
4. work with children
a. both present and past experiences
are important
b. parents’ IWMs of relationships with
own parents and with child modified
E. Alicia Lieberman
1. relation of feeling states in current
relationships to feeling states with baby
2. internalized early experiences provide
structural framework that influences
experience of infant care
3. defensive process of infant complement
those used by caregiver
4. developmental guidance and supportive
treatment implemented with interpretive
IV. Future Directions for
Attachment Theory
A. Exploration of distortions in child’s perception
of external world
B. Exploration of developmental variations in
C. Discontinuities in attachment classification
related to different developmental periods
D. Dimensional nature of attachment categories
(both secure and insecure aspects)
E. Goal of attachment behavior not just
protection but also containment
F. Enrichment of attachment theory’s view of
psychopathology with psychoanalytic ideas
(e.g., Kernberg)