Attachment Theory

Attachment Theory

The word ‘attachment’ refers to any connection or bond we have with a thing or a person (Psychology Today, 2019). In the psychotherapy world, Attachment Theory proposes that there exists a great mental and physical attachment to a minimum of a main caregiver and it is imperative for his or her personal growth. Attachment theory emphasizes upon the connections and rapport among different individuals, especially in prime interpersonal relationship, comprising the ones that exists amid a parent and child and also between lovers. The term ‘attachment’ was first used by  psychologist John Bowlby who studied on this subject and concluded that a child develops a strong connection with one of its caregiver, who is usually a parent, and this relationship is the crucial for the child’s personal growth in the early years (Labs.psychology.illinois.edu, 2019).

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Attachment theory in psychotherapy places significance upon of “attachment” in the individual growth of a person. The theory states that the capacity of a person to make a mental and physical connection or “attachment” with a different individual provides strength, consistency and feeling of well-being which is required for risk-taking, progress and advance in the pursuit of personal achievements. The way a child is dependent upon the sole caregiver for their various needs, an adult is also looking for support and partnership with another individual for unconditional backing, guidance and care (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970).

Bowlby’s studies regarding the childhood development as well as “temperament” made him conclude that it requires a strong attachment for a caregiver to be able to provide the much-needed sense of security as well as foundation (Bowlby, 1958). When such a relationship doesn’t exist, Bowlby felt that much of the developmental energy is then wasted searching for stability and security. Generally, those that have no such attachments tend to be fearful and less-willing to explore or learn from the newer experiences. In stark contrast, a child having strong attachment to a parent is assured that he / she has the unflinching support and therefore tends to be far more adventurous as well as eager for newer experiences, which are essential for the overall learning and development.

The principal limitation of the attachment theory is that the studies have been done only on young children (Prior & Glaser, 2006). Although studies on children are usually helpful in developmental psychology, but this field is idyllically supposed to deal with the all the stages of development of the human organism, and includes the adult stage also. During the 1980s, Phillip Shaver and Cindy Hazan garnered a great deal of attention owing to their views on the attachment theory dealing with adult relationships (Hazan and Shaver, 1990). While doing their studies, they considered a number of couples, examined the nature of their attachment, and observed how the couples reacted to the various stresses and stimuli. Even In case of adults, it appeared that a strong attachment was of significant importance. It was observed that wherever the couples had weak attachments, there was lack of intimacy as well as feeling of inadequateness between them. Wherever attachments were very strong, co-dependency became an issue. In such a case, relationship worked out best when both parties were able to balance both intimacy as well as independence. Similar to that of the developing children, the ideal situation lied in an attachment which provided a sense of security and thus enabled one to go all out to gain experiences in the world.


Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bell, S. M. (1970). Attachment, exploration, and separation: Illustrated by the behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Child Development, 41, 49-67.

Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the childs tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350-371.

Hazan, C. and Shaver, P. (1990). Love and work: An attachment-theoretical perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(2), pp.270-280.

Labs.psychology.illinois.edu. (2019). A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research | R. Chris Fraley. [online] Available at: http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].

Prior, V., & Glaser, D. (2006). Understanding attachment and attachment disorders: Theory, evidence and practice. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Psychology Today. (2019). Attachment | Psychology Today. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/attachment [Accessed 10 Feb. 2019].

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