Patricia McKinsey Crittenden

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Patricia McKinsey Crittenden (born 1945) is a theorist in developmental psychopathology. With Mary Ainsworth’s guidance and input from John Bowlby, she developed the Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) of attachment and adaptation. This model emphasizes adaptive organization that becomes more complex with maturity; disorganization is thought to be a fleeting state indicative of individuals’ changing strategies.[1] Specifically, Ainsworth’s conceptualization of attachment as strategic protective functioning was expanded by Crittenden to address adaptation in families with maltreatment or mental illness.[2][3] Crittenden also developed and adapted a series of age-specific assessments of attachment, focusing on ways in which the organization of information processing shapes self- and child-protective attachment strategies.[4][5][6]

Ainsworth’s infant patterns are seen in the DMM as changing with maturation and adapting dynamically to the life contexts in which children use them. This also implies that the distribution of the patterns in different cultural contexts varies to promote adaptation to varied geopolitical circumstances.[7] Early, unprotected and uncomforted experiences of danger tend to be more difficult to assimilate in a strategy, and often interfere with subsequent functioning as “unresolved traumas”.[8] In these cases, individuals’ protective functioning is more influenced by their past experiences than by their current circumstances, creating the potential for current maladaptation and psychopathology. However, because mental processing is always dynamic, change is possible throughout the lifespan, providing the treatment addresses the crucial distortions and age-salient competencies.

Dr. Crittenden's academic degrees are in special education (M. Ed.) and developmental psychopathology (Ph.D.). She worked with Mary Ainsworth, one of the founders of the Bowlby-Ainsworth theory of attachment, John Bowlby (on the CARE-Index), and David Finkelhor on child sexual abuse. She was trained in both a behavioural therapy and family systems therapy.

Dr. Crittenden is currently on the Faculty of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada and has held positions at the University of Miami, San Diego State University (Distinguished Visiting Professor), the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (Beverley Professorship, Canada), the Universities of Bologna (Italy), Virginia (USA), and Helsinki (Finland), Edith Cowan University (Australia), and The New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry (Australia). The focus of her work has been the protective function of variations in child-rearing strategies.

Dr. Crittenden has published more than 100 books, chapters, and empirical papers on child abuse and neglect, attachment, family systems, and the social ecology of development. The July, 2010 issue of Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry was devoted to studies drawn from the DMM. Her books are The Organization of Attachment Relationships: Maturation, Culture, and Context, edited with Angie Claussen (New York: Cambridge University Press), Raising Parents: Attachment, Parenting, and Child Safety (2008, Willan Publishing) and with, Andrea Landini, The Adult Attachment Interview: Assessing Psychological and Interpersonal Strategies (2011, Norton). Her forthcoming work includes Crittenden, P.M., Dallos, R., Landini, A, & Kozlowska, K. (in press). Attachment and Family Systems Therapy (McGraw-Hill).

Crittenden was the founding chair of The International Association for the Study of Attachment, formed by professionals interested in research and applications of the Dynamic Maturational Model of attachment and adaptation.IASA's biennial conferences both show off DMM research and bring emerging ideas and findings to the DMM. She received a career achievement award for ‘outstanding contributions to the field of family and child development’ from the European Family Therapy Association in 2004.In 2010, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry published a special issue on DMM research.


  1. ^ Crittenden, P.M. & Ainsworth M.D.S. (1989). Child maltreatment and attachment theory. In D. Cicchetti and V. Carlson (Eds.), Handbook of child maltreatment, (pp. 432 463). New York: Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Crittenden, P.M. (1995). Attachment and psychopathology. In S. Goldberg, R. Muir, J. Kerr, (Eds.), John Bowlby's attachment theory: Historical, clinical, and social significance (pp. 367-406). New York: The Analytic Press.
  3. ^ Crittenden, P. M. (2008). Raising parents: Attachment, parenting, and child safety. Abingdon, UK: Routledge/Willan.
  4. ^ Crittenden, P.M. (1981). Abusing, neglecting, problematic, and adequate dyads: Differentiating by patterns of interaction. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 27, 1 18.
  5. ^ Crittenden, P. M. & Landini, A. (2011). Assessing Adult Attachment: A Dynamic-Maturational Approach to Discourse Analysis. New York: Norton.
  6. ^ Spieker, S. & Crittenden, P. M. (2010). Comparing the validity of two approaches to attachment theory: Disorganization versus danger-informed organization in the preschool years. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 15, 97-120.
  7. ^ Crittenden, P. M. & Claussen, A.H. (Eds.) (2000). The organization of attachment relationships: Maturation, culture, and context. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ Crittenden, P.M. (1997). Toward an integrative theory of trauma: A dynamic-maturational approach. In D. Cicchetti and S. Toth (Eds.), The Rochester Symposium on Developmental Psychopathology, Vol. 10. Risk, Trauma, and Mental Processes (pp. 34-84). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

External links[edit]

  • Family Relations Institute [1]