Attachment Theory

Psychologist and Psychiatrist John Bowlby (1969) theorized that infants were born with an innate set of behaviours designed to ensure that they could maintain closeness to caregivers and therefore survive the highly dependent stage of infancy and childhood. Based on these early experiences of trying to seek closeness and protection from caregivers, Bowlby theorized that infants developed different attachment styles that remained a feature of their personalities as they matured into adulthood. A wealth of research into Attachment Theory has subsequently indicated that attachment styles are a highly relevant predictor of functioning in adult relationships (e.g. Hazan & Shaver, 1987) and of capacities for emotion regulation (e.g. Pietromonaco & Feldman-Barrett, 1997). Attachment styles determine the level of comfort that individuals feel with becoming close to and depending on others, as well the level of confidence they have in their own self-worth and capability (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003). Traumatic experiences, especially early in life can have a profound effect on a person’s attachment style and therefore have far-reaching impacts for that person’s sense of self and ability to relate to others in healthy ways. The breadth of Attachment Theory therefore provides a useful therapeutic framework for understanding and treating a vast number of psychological difficulties such as relational problems, post-traumatic reactions, problems with impulsive or self-sabotaging behaviours, and emotion regulation difficulties.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and Loss: Vol.1. Attachment. London:Tavistock.

Hazan, C. & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P.R., & Pereg, D. (2003). Attachment theory and affect regulation: The dynamics, development, and cognitive consequences of attachment-related strategies. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 77-102.

Pietromonaco, P.R. & Feldman-Barrett, L. (1997). Working models of attachment and daily social interactions. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 73, 1409-1423.