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About this book

This succinct and highly readable book from one of Palgrave’s best-selling authors offers the perfect introduction to a fascinating and fast-growing field. It explains the key concepts in attachment theory and describes how the main attachment types play out both in childhood and later life. It identifies some of the intriguing questions being explored by research, such as: ‘What part do individuals’ attachment histories play in adult relationships?’ and ‘What scope is there for attachment styles established in infancy to change later in life?’

Students and professionals alike from across the fields of psychology, counselling, health and social work will find this an illuminating and thought-provoking guide to the rich complexity of human behaviour.

Table of Contents

Attachment Theory, Models and Measures

Frontmatter

1. Attachment Behaviour

Abstract
About 150,000 years ago on the plains of north-east Africa in what we now call Ethiopia, small groups of primates, walking upright, might have been seen wandering the savannas. These primates would be immediately recognizable as members of the species homo sapiens, biologically no different from you and me; that is, modern men and women. They lived as hunter—gatherers in small co-operative family groups.
David Howe

2. Emotions and their Regulation

Abstract
We noted at the beginning of this book that human beings are a very social, indeed sociable, species. We spend a great deal of our time in the company of others. Evolutionary ethnology teaches us that being a member of the group offers protection. The social group promotes survival, supplies resources (food, shelter, warmth), transmits knowledge, and provides opportunities (sexual partners, new skills). Becoming socially competent is therefore a key skill for survival, sexual reproduction, and mental health. But in order to be socially skilled, we also need to be psychologically smart. One of the defining characteristics of our species is the desire to make sense of both ourselves and other people, particularly at the psychological level. Whereas most other species respond only to behaviour, we also respond to minds and their intentions. Psychological sense-making allows us to communicate, interpret and collaborate so that we can ‘work, love and play’ (Fonagy et al. 2002: 6). We are rarely content simply observing behaviour. We want to know what triggered it and to answer this question, we need to be psychologically curious. This is the stuff of gossip, shared puzzlement, offender profiling, novels, and the answers that agony aunts and uncles give in their advice columns:
At the end of another difficult team meeting Mel and Royce looked at each other and sighed. Once again the office administrator had threatened to leave saying that no one, except the departmental head, valued what she did. The changes she wanted to make in the way the office was organized had taken up a vast amount of her time, including working at weekends, and she was upset that she was getting so much resistance from the practitioners. Not for the first time, she broke down in tears, obliging other people to offer her support, sympathy and a willingness to temper some of their misgivings about the proposed changes. ‘She always does this,’ said Royce. ‘I feel emotionally manipulated every time. Why does she do it?’ ‘You’re a man and you don’t see the half of it,’ said Mel. ‘She flirts with you and Eli but slags us girls off behind our backs, I know she does. It’s always all or nothing with her. Hugs, kisses and best mates one moment, sulks, threats and rejection the next. It does my head in. I think she’s insecure.’
David Howe

3. The Internal Working Model

Abstract
So far the emphasis has been on attachment behaviour and the regulation of the emotions in attachment theory. This is right and proper because from an evolutionary point of view, the survival advantages conferred by attachment behaviour and affect regulation are fundamentally important. But children grow, mature and accumulate more and more experience of the world. They learn how it treats them and the part they play in it. As the brain develops, it seeks to make sense of these experiences. It finds patterns. It sees cause and apparent effect. It sees links between one behaviour and another. The world, and our passage through it, is not entirely arbitrary. Children begin to realize that, to an extent, the environment, particularly the social environment, is predictable. ‘When I do this, she does that.’ ‘When he behaves in that way, I respond in this manner.’ ‘When she does that, it makes me feel this.’ This early ability to make sense of the world at a more conscious, reflective level represents the beginning of cognitive understanding. And with cognition comes the possibility of intention, choice, and options.
David Howe

4. Patterns of Attachment

Abstract
The idea of an internal working model provides a way of thinking about how the quality of external relationships gradually becomes part of the child’s mental inside to form his or her psychological self. As attachment relationships become psychologically internalized, the quality of a child’s social experiences becomes a mental property of that child. In turn, the mental inside influences the child’s view of the self and others. The concept of the internal working model explains why close relationships matter, and how their qualities influence psychological experience, cognitive modelling, interpersonal behaviour and relationship styles.
David Howe

5. Attachment in Adulthood

Abstract
Attachment and development in the early years dominated the original research agenda. However, over the past twenty or so years, spurred on by some very creative social and personality psychologists, the study of attachment in adulthood has added a new impetus to the subject. Beginning as a theory of child development, Bowlby’s (1979: 129) hope that attachment’s potential as a lifecourse theory of human behaviour and relationships began to be realized. ‘To dub attachment behaviour in adult life regressive is indeed to overlook the vital role that it plays in the life of man from the cradle to the grave’ (Bowlby 1997: 208).
David Howe

Attachment Patterns, Types and Styles

Frontmatter

6. Secure Attachments in Childhood

Abstract
When caregivers are available and responsive at times of need, when they have their child in mind, children are able to use them as a safe haven and a secure base from which to explore and play. Parents who have made sense of their own early childhood experiences, whatever their quality, who can mentalize, are likely to have securely attached children. Securely attached children are the most likely to develop emotional intelligence, good social skills, and robust mental health.
David Howe

7. Secure Attachments in Adulthood

Abstract
Many of the social and psychological benefits associated with secure attachments in childhood continue to be present in adults who are classified as secure. The internal working model of the secure adult is one in which there is a positive view of self, others and relationships. Individuals are happy with their own company but equally comfortable with closeness and intimacy. Secure people approach others at times of need. A worry about a hospital appointment or setback at work might prompt proximity seeking with a partner with the expectation of emotional support and understanding. When two secure people relate, care and reassurance, advice and encouragement are likely to flow happily in both directions.
David Howe

8. Avoidant Attachments in Childhood

Abstract
When those who are most important to us seem cool, maybe a little uncomfortable with too much emotional display, or even rejecting of our need of them, it is likely that we will learn to contain our eagerness to be close and hide any hint that it hurts to be rebuffed and denied. Avoidance, in this sense, isn’t necessarily a physical avoidance of closeness, but rather an avoidance of showing too much dependency and too much emotion in case one is rejected and suffers hurt. As a consequence, avoidant people feel anxious whenever their feelings become strongly aroused. They fear rejection or ridicule. Intimacy is desired, even pursued, but it increases anxiety and hesitation. So, emotions can’t be trusted as a guide to action. Thinking is safer than feeling. Being rational and in control is better than letting your emotions run away with you. Each attachment pattern represents a behavioural strategy that helps the individual adapt as best they can to the quality and character of the close relationship environment in which they find themselves. Insecure attachments make sense under the circumstances.
David Howe

9. Avoidant and Dismissing Attachments in Adulthood

Abstract
For those classified as avoidant as children, parental availability was most likely when they were doing things well and without a fuss. This conditional acceptance means that the avoidant personality has a moderate need for approval. So, although the self has to be seen as independent and strong, it appears that the avoidant adult’s ‘attempts to maintain distance in their personal relationships might be, at least in part, anxiety driven’ (Feeney et al. 1995: 142). Psychological independence therefore feels more comfortable than emotional closeness. There is some recognition of this by avoidant people themselves. Although they generally present as able and competent, there is a willingness to admit that they find close relationships and intimacy more difficult. This is then followed by the qualification that feelings and relationships are not that important to them anyway. Feedback by partners, for example, is not always welcome and often dismissed.
David Howe

10. Ambivalent Attachments in Childhood

Abstract
Parents whose caregiving is uncertain, inconsistent and a little unpredictable pose young babies with a problem. Sometimes when the child has needs and displays attachment behaviour, the parent responds appropriately with both protective and comforting responses. But at other times, the baby’s attachment behaviour leads to anxious or flustered responses, irrelevant responses, or even no response at all. This kind of inconsistency and unpredictability is not the same as that occasionally shown by all parents who are sometimes busy or preoccupied with other demands. Secure children receive good enough parenting, which is to say that in principle the caregiver would want to be responsive even though in practice their availability never reaches anything near 100 per cent. But for children whose parents are less predictable, there is no reliable connection between infant displays of attachment and the availability of the caregiver. The caregiver’s responses are neither contingent nor congruent. The behavioural challenge for the infant is how to maximize the availability of the caregiver in such a relationship.
David Howe

11. Anxious and Preoccupied Attachments in Adulthood

Abstract
The internal working model of those classified as ambivalent is one in which the self is viewed negatively (Park et al. 2004). Self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy are low. Worried that failure of any kind risks abandonment, there is a reluctance to try new tasks or pick up fresh challenges. When self-doubt is high, motivation and concentration tend to be low.
David Howe

12. Disorganized and Controlling Attachments in Childhood

Abstract
So far we have been exploring attachment patterns and styles that are organized, even though some might also be recognized as insecure. We have to remember that attachment behaviours become organized in order to increase proximity to caregivers and the emotional availability of others. For example, as we have seen, one way to increase the responsivity of an unpredictable parent or partner is to increase the frequency and intensity of attachment behavioural displays. The individual still cannot take the partner’s availability for granted, hence the insecurity, but the attachment behaviour has been organized in such a way as to increase the chances of the attachment figure responding at times of needs.
David Howe

13. Fearful Avoidant Attachments and Unresolved States of Mind in Adulthood

Abstract
Adults who have suffered childhood losses or traumas which continue to affect them in the present are said to be in an unresolved state of mind with respect to those losses or traumas. This means that any current stress, for example, in the context of a close relationship, can cause the old, distressing memories associated with the original loss or trauma to erupt into, and disturb present consciousness and behaviour. A high degree of continuity seems to characterize this group, certainly when compared with the avoidant and preoccupied groups. This seems to suggest that early loss, abuse, neglect and trauma, if unresolved, retain the power seriously to disturb thought and feeling across the lifecourse. For example, Main et al. (2005; also see Weinfield et al. 2004) found that the majority of children classified as disorganized as infants, and disorganized controlling aged 6, were coded as ‘unresolved’ when they reached the age of 19.
David Howe

Issues and Debates

Frontmatter

14. Temperament, Disability and Gender

The interaction of nature and nurture
Abstract
As attachment theory has its deep roots in the evolutionary and animal behavioural sciences, an understanding of nature and biology is fundamental to any study of the discipline. But as nature gets played out in the particular environmental contexts in which it finds itself, the nurturing world of social relationships is also critical. Being adaptive, attachment behaviour gets influenced and shaped by the responses of other people, and in the early years no-one is more important in this shaping process than children’s primary caregivers. After all, it is the differences in these caregiving environments that give rise to the various patterns of attachment.
David Howe

15. Attachment Across the Lifecourse

Continuity and discontinuity, stability and change
Abstract
Many studies have found modest but significant levels of attachment continuity across the lifespan, from infancy to adulthood (Shaver and Mikulincer 2004: 41; Grossmann et al. 2005). This indicates that attachment organization remains moderately stable for most children and young adults (Ammaniti et al. 2000). Whatever your attachment happens to be as a young child, the chances are reasonably strong that you will have that same attachment status twenty or more years later.
David Howe

Epilogue

Abstract
Ursula Bowlby, John Bowlby’s wife, said that ‘John was an explorer, venturing into uncharted territory’ with his friend and ally, Mary Ainsworth, providing the signposts (Ursula Bowlby 1999). Robert Hinde, also a long-time friend, collaborator and colleague of Bowlby, observed that ‘the essence of John Bowlby’s approach was broadminded eclecticism’ (Hinde 2005: 2). This gets to the heart of Bowlby’s genius and reminds us that attachment theory’s success has been its ability and willingness to remain open to new ideas from across the sciences.
David Howe
Additional information