What Is Attachment Theory?

Attachment theory explains the infant-mother dynamic, emphasizing the importance of a secure and trusting mother-infant in healthy development.

John Bowlby (1907-1990) was a British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known for his theory on attachment. Key points to Bowlby’s theory include:

  • Infants are born already biologically wired to be cared for and attach to a primary caregiver;
  • Bowlby was influenced by Lorenz’s imprinting studies (baby ducks!);
  • Attachment behaviors are instinctive, which matters to trauma because those early attachment responses can be activated (triggered!) by conditions that threaten closeness or connection: separation, insecurity, and fear;
  • These innate behaviors are part of the survival instinct process;
  • The initial attachment experience serves a lens for all future relationships as the infant grows into a child and then into an adult; and
  • This initial experience provides an “internal working model” that serves as (1) a model of others as being trustworthy, (2) a model of the self as valuable, and (3) a model of the self as effective when interacting with others.

The attachment styles identified by Ainsworth, through her strange situation experiment:

This research led Ainsworth to identify attachment styles that could predict behavior and patterns of relationship as the child grew older:


This plays out even with adults, like the model of Bartholomew and Horowitz here:


Considering that different insiders may have different attachment styles, Dr. Barach discussed disorganized attachment as it applies to DID.

The example from the Robertsonresearch film “A Two Year Old Goes to the Hospital”. That link will take you to where you can purchase the entire film, but here is a clip:

Attachment Disturbances in Adults, by Dr. Daniel P. Brown, I heard after listening to the Therapist Uncensored podcast. Dr. Barach stated that Dr. Brown’s theory is about how CPTSD comes from disorganized attachment that is then followed by abuse.

Source SystemSpeech.org

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