Talk:Attachment theory/Archive 6

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Bowlby and Control systems theory

Please excuse me. For a week I've been battling the flu and without a functioning vehicle. Without a computer at home I had only 10 minutes to give you signs of life.

Near the beginning of the book, in Chapter 3, Bowlby discusses "control systems theory," homeostasis and feedback. This is a "new" paradigm in science that gives a description of what was before considered "immeasurable" by science. This presents numerous difficulties for classic approaches (Lawrence Bale gives an excellent description of the dilemma in Gregory Bateson, Cybernetics and the Social/Behavioural Sciences (1995) [1]--which is why we don't hear much about it even now. To explain it in scientific detail would take too much space. To keep it simple, it describes the interdynamic functioning of how ecosystems work. Gregory Bateson was among those who recognized in the 1940s that an otherwise esoteric theory of mathematics and engineering of how anti-aircraft guns work also applied to human cultures, human relations and how our minds work, etc. G. Bateson (1973) Steps to an Ecology of Mind.
WP article Systems theory says it "brings together principles and concepts from ontology, philosophy of science, physics, computer science, biology, and engineering as well as geography, sociology, political science, psychotherapy (within family systems therapy) and economics among others."

And what in tarnation does this have to do with Attachment?
Ongoing human relationships are not about how one person acts towards another, but an interactive dynamic of what happens between them. An action of one affects the response of the other in a continuing sequence, and a homeostatic balance is maintained.
So babies seek proximity, but the "mother" also maintains proximity. And when the infant cannot seek proximity the mother maintains it for him/her. This is true, not just in humans but in a number of animals that at first, "the mother initiates almost all interaction" (p. 92)

It's important to remember the historical context in which Bowlby was working.
Developing a new theory is a hard enough task--finding the words to describe a phenomenon so others can understand. The ostracism by the psychiatric and psychoanalytical communities that Bowlby suffered meant that he was working under doubly difficult circumstances. Without the support--and in the face of opposition from one's colleagues can make work difficult, even impossible for anyone. It amounts to a very sophisticated form of bullying and harrassment. Bowlby was a patient and persistent scientist who kept his cool, but often he couldn't state conclusions, but could only cite the evidence and let the people who came after him make the connections.
He stated incidences of attachment behavior that others were already aware of, he could point out that in our "environment of adaptedness" of hunter-gatherer societies mothers carried their babies, thereby maintaining proximity before their children could seek proximity for themselves, he could say, "...the concept 'environment of adaptedness' is central to the argument of this book...(p. 47), but he couldn't complete the idea for us. Margaret9mary (talk) 02:12, 25 January 2011 (UTC)

In defining attachment it's necessary to distinguish between

  • Attachment behaviors--outwardly visible behaviors
  • Attachment behavioral systems--the brain programming that determines the behavior, and
  • Attachment theory--a scientific description of the living reality.

There are no emotions or behaviors without a living body and brain and the neurological connections and biochemistry that support them. Of living beings, humans have the least number of pre-set behavioral responses, so a great deal of programming, especially of social behavior, takes place after birth. The first months after birth are a crucial time of rapid development.
The description of attachment as appearing rather mysteriously some time between 6 and 10 months after birth leads people outside the field of specialty the misunderstanding that the development before then doesn't matter.Margaret9mary (talk) 03:21, 25 January 2011 (UTC)
P.S. In citing the WP of Systems theory does not mean it's clearly explained. The example of an ecosystem involves seeing it as a whole. One can't understand it by studying one species of animal, but requires knowing the other animals it interacts, its food supply, its niche as predator or prey and the environment with all its variables such as climate.Margaret9mary (talk) 03:37, 25 January 2011 (UTC)

The thing is, a theory is not "a scientific description of the living reality". A theory is a conceptual framework created to make connections between observed events. Bowlby's attachment theory is a conceptual framework that posits causal relationships between experiences with caregivers and later attitudes toward caregivers, and the ways they change over time. Because this is what a theory is, no theory can be expected to integrate information that was completely unavailable at the time the theory was formulated-- the theory itself has to change in order to accomplish that. And, in fact Bowlby's attachment theory has already changed, as Michael Rutter pointed out in 1995 and as I point out in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychology and Theory.

M9M, I feel as if the direction you want to go is Schore's "modern attachment theory". Am I right about this?

I have a suggestion for you,though: if you want to get into events before 6 months that help to shape the later receptiveness to attachment, why not look at perinatal mood disorders in mothers? Those are linked with later developmental problems, and you could use that information to argue that non-depressed caregivers are doing things that help babies become more capable of attachment relationships. Jean Mercer (talk) 14:32, 30 January 2011 (UTC) Of course, the text would need to clarify that this was not actually part of Bowlby's thinking.Jean Mercer (talk) 15:09, 30 January 2011 (UTC)


In the second paragraph of the article it says "Infants become attached to adults...who remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about six months to two years."
The statement is misleading; it gives to understand that the first six months are irrelevant to the development of attachment. Without a consistent caregiver(s) in the first six months the infant wouldn't develop the behaviors that are described as attachment, nor would a constantly changing series of caregivers help develop secure attachment behaviors. The development of secure attachment would be at least delayed if not weakened.

Babies at this age can adapt to changes in caregivers, such as in adoption. But adoption can be traumatic if the transition is delayed (but babies survive). And babies can adapt to numerous caregivers--such as in a large, extended family or the experience that's been described of many college students--who they see on a regular basis. But eventually babies choose one or a few primary attachment figures. I have been trying to figure out how to change that sentence. I agree a section on Infant Attachment would be appropriately put in the article on attachment in children--at least for a start. But there are a number of questionable things in the article on Attachment Theory that really need reworking. I hope you're done hazing me, Fainites (or your assistant who doesn't seem to read carefully).Margaret9mary (talk) 00:02, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

Actually the sentence is pure Bowlby, insofar as is possible without breaching copyright. I'm not sure what you mean by your last sentence? Is this a joke or are you implying some sort of bad faith? I'm not hazing you. I just don't agree with everything you say - and there is no reason why I should. I don't have an assistant. Jean Mercer is an Emeritus Professor of Child Development and a published author on attachment theory, amongst other things, with recognised scientific publishers and in peer-reviewed journals. What is more she has been around on wikipedia for longer than I have.
Please remember that this article should be edited by consensus. Nobody owns it but everything in it needs to be sourced to reliable, verifiable and notable sources - not your own opinions and views. When you change material in it that is already sourced you need to be careful to ensure that the new version is in accordance with the given source. If you want to add something different then it will need another source. I have already pointed you in the direction of one of the best available sources (Cassidy and Shaver) so you could see if you could find what you are looking for there. You might also like to try "Understanding Attachment" by Jean Mercer or "Understanding Attachment" by Prior and Glaser. The former is published by Praeger and the latter is published by the RCP in the UK. Another very readable tome on attachment theory is the Robert Karen book "Becoming Attached". The phrase "within attachment theory" was there for a reason. Attachment within attachment theory has a specific meaning for the purposes of the theory. There are arguably other ways of using the word within psychology. The passage is there to ensure that readers understand how the terms are used in attachment theory and therefore in the article.
I understand you think the article lacks sufficient attention to the issue of attachment/pre-attachment/attachment behavioural systems in the first 6 months and have asked you several times what you would like to add. What I suggest you do is work out what you want to add to the article to address this, with sources. Fainites barleyscribs 13:03, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
Thank you for your thoughtful responses, both of you. Let me first respond briefly to a few things. Yes, I think the article lacks sufficient attention to the first 6 or so months of life, and since this is the foundation on which everything that follows is built, I think a section on early attachment (or "pre-attachment") if only some general comments, are needed. Also, infant attachment is qualitatively different from peer bonds and adult attachment. But let's remember that Darwin didn't have DNA studies and Bowlby didn't have brain scans or hormonal tests, yet they did an amazingly good job with what they could observe directly. As Mary Carlson has said (she's at the Harvard Medical School and has done studies on the Romanian orphans), science sometimes confirms what the untrained eye can see.
I've finally ordered the Handbook on Attachment.
I've read Schore's introduction to the 1999(?) edition of Attachment but not about his "modern attachment theory." But since we don't do anything without a brain and a body the issue is there--like a picture puzzle with a piece missing. The sources I have might not be directly related to attachment but they are relevant. (I also know more than I wish I did about the neurobiology of attachment).
Fainites, you've commented that even today many people, including many professionals still don't understand attachment theory. Why is this?
Part of the problem is that as an interdisciplinary thinker Bowlby was automatically thinking in terms of--what he called control systems theory involving feedback systems.(also known as cybernetics, systems theory, communication theory, information theory, etc.), (By the way, the Psychology Wiki article on Systems theory is much better than the WP article). If this concept is left out of our understanding of attachment theory it distorts what Bowlby was saying and causes endless difficulties. This is a "new" paradigm in science and, as I mentioned above, Lawrence Bale brings clarity to the issue in his article Gregory Bateson, Cybernetic and the Social/Behavioural Sciences--see the first 8 pages. I believe many of the misunderstandings and many of the complications as growing out of this difficulty. One can't quote Bowlby without looking at everything else he said about the issue throughout the book. It is Bowlby's conceptual framework and has gone missing in much work. (The concept of interdisciplinary work is something I grew up with--my father was comparing languages, so seeing the connections and relationships between different systems of communication was part of my earliest understanding).
But also let's not complicate things more than necessary. We must ask, why are modern humans having such difficulty with something that Homo sapiens sapiens managed to do for 100,000 years or more, and be good-enough parents without modern scientific knowledge? Childraising was passed down as a learned/instinctive behavior and good parents raised children who survived and succeeded at life. A key part of it was that women carried their babies with them so that the mother maintained proximity for the infant until the infant could do it for him/herself. As an interactive system attachment means that in all mammals mothers also maintain proximity. But Bowlby comments on the degree of doing this is unique in humans. Constant body contact and close social interaction affects an infant's neurological and social development. I saw this in Mexico City while I was there in the 1960s and 70s--lower-income women were still carrying their infants in rebozo, and the differences between this and American child-raising were an eye-opener--babies who cried rarely and were easily comforted, for example, who by age 4 could closely track their mother in a crowd without getting lost (if she was carrying bags of groceries and couldn't hold their hand) like a foal with it's nose to its mother's flank--and a lot more. (No, of course it wasn't ideal; there was machismo, excessive drinking and domestic violence)--but looking back I realize I witnessed how infants were raised for most of human history). It gave me a different viewpoint on attachment.
Yes, a theory is a conceptual framework. But in studying human beings one can't put them in a laboratory and do controlled double-blind studies. Perhaps because my parents were anthropologists--and understanding the nature of fieldwork was another given I grew up with--of entering into a different culture, going along and not being too nosy--because people immediately change their behavior when someone questions it. Modern societies, especially in the U.S., are going through a vast, uncontrolled social experiment. Mothers aren't allowed to take their infants with them to work and aren't given accomodations for raising children. If a woman wants to have a career she faces tough choices; if she's in a low paying job and can't afford good childcare and doesn't have the help of her family she lives constantly on the verge of crisis. Mary Carlson comments that what we're doing in the U.S. resembles the conditions of the Romanian children to a less severe degree. (talk) 03:17, 1 February 2011 (UTC) (talk) 04:15, 1 February 2011 (UTC)Margaret9mary (talk) 04:37, 1 February 2011 (UTC)final edits, computer lab is closing for the night.Margaret9mary (talk) 04:56, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Reading John Bowlby

Reading Bowlby presents a problem. He was able to visualize the whole picture, as if it were a 4-dimensional interactive jigsaw puzzle, so to speak. One can't read one sentence or paragraph alone. Take for example in the index under "feedback control of behavior" --he has various sections of 10-20 pages and other shorter sections throughout the book. Also, "feedback control" is a totally different concept from our usual understanding of control imposed from outside. Just as one can't have a tennis match with one person, one can't examine the behavior of an interactive relationship by examining the behavior of one actor towards another, but must consider the ongoing interaction between the two.
Another thing about his ability to see the whole as a jigsaw puzzle is that even if he didn't have all the "pieces"--aka information--he could see a space that would need to be fillled.

Jean--when you suggested I do something on development before 6 months--that's what I would like to do. But is it possible? Bowlby says quite a bit about neonatal development. Obviously he was picking up on it before the revised version of 1982. But from your and Fainites comments I gather the information is not available within secondary sources on attachment theory. I've come across some things in other fields before, when I wasn't focused on infant attachment. However, the developmental delays of the Romanian orphans are a source. And Harlow's research covered how long an infant could be left in social isolation before it couldn't be rehabilitated and what forms of rehabilitation worked. (Putting two isolates together had limited results; putting isolates in with socially normal peers didn't work, but putting isolates with babies younger than themselves did).

Fainites--the reason I took out "within attachment theory" is that the first section is what's most likely to be read by laypeople. They don't understand that kind of signalling of scientific work; it just makes it sound more confusing. I imagine you get frustrated by dealing with vandals and people with a one-track agenda. I hope you've noticed that I've done rather minor editing in the last 6 weeks. I wanted to reach consensus first. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Margaret9mary (talkcontribs) 00:20, 2 February 2011 (UTC) Margaret9mary (talk) 00:23, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

You might find some secondary sources about the first 6 months. I meant to look in Cassidy and Shaver myself but haven't had time. It's a developing area. It's just that currently it does not seem to be an established part of attachment theory that actual attachments form in that period. Certainly the readiness the infant brings to social interactions and it's instinctive capacity to seek and form them from pretty much from the outset is part of attachment theory. That section could be expanded. There is a developments section. I would just be concerned that any theoretical developments are not overstated. Stern's work and Schore's work is very interesting.
Regarding "within attachment theory", it was there because, as pertaining to children, "attachment" has a specific meaning. Attachment is from the child to the carer(s), for specific purposes. The evolutionary aspect is a central part of the theory. In normal parlance people talk of attachment in respect of any fondness people have for each other. Fainites barleyscribs 13:25, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
I'm going to have to do some reading first. So please understand my delay in responding to your comments. Meanwhile I want to suggest a section of Terminology--such as the following:
  • Mother--women bear children, and in the majority of cases the biological (birth) mother will be the person who raises the child. But in a significant number of instances, when the biological mother has died or is unable to care for the child for any reason, an adoptive parent, foster parent or caregiver (e.g. a father, grandmother, aunt or nanny) will be the "mother." This term refers more to the act of mothering.
  • "to mother"--a long-term, daily commitment to care for an infant to promote their healthy development, physical, social and emotional; to provide age-appropriate nutrition, protection, social interaction, and guidance. It implies an emotional bond.
  • Primary attachment figure--the person who is most attuned to the child, who is most responsive to the infant's pre-verbal cues and who interacts with the child on a regular basis usually becomes the primary figure the child attaches to. Usually the person meets the infant's physical needs also, but the infant's need for social interaction is a more important factor.Margaret9mary (talk) 02:38, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
Currently it says Infants form attachments to any consistent caregiver who is sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them. The quality of the social engagement is more influential than the amount of time spent. The biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a "mothering" way over a period of time. In attachment theory, this means a set of behaviours that involves engaging in lively social interaction with the infant and responding readily to signals and approaches.[12] Nothing in the theory suggests that fathers are not equally likely to become principal attachment figures if they provide most of the child care and related social interaction.. Fainites barleyscribs 13:33, 4 February 2011 (UTC)
We could add what is meant by "mothering" in a footnote. Footnotes work rather well on wiki as you only have to click - not hunt.Fainites barleyscribs 11:03, 5 February 2011 (UTC)


Fainites--Sometimes you give thoughtful answers and sometimes you sound like a mother hen protecting her chicks, but either way you often don't read carefully what others have written. I don't expect you to agree with me but, in that case, that you explain why.
I've spent many years wondering at a distance why Attachment theory was taking so long to be recognized and I'm beginning to understand it: over 140 pages in Bowlby's Attachment are listed in the index under "feedback control of behavior" yet the concept has been ignored--or not clearly understood. What to do? Maybe that's what I should do is explain that!
I came across Gregory Bateson's Steps to an Ecology of Mind over 15 years before I read Bowlby; Bateson was very influential in making the connection between ecosystems in nature and ecosystems in human behavior which is, in part, what Bowlby's references to control systems theory is about.
I've ordered a copy of the Handbook of Attachment which hasn't arrived yet; have just received David Bell's Dynamics of Connection through interlibrary loan; also, I came across an interesting article online, Neonatal Handling Affects Durable Bonding and Social Development, (a French article) that says, "When human babies are left on their mothers' abdomens during their first hour post-birth, they are able to locate the breast, crawl towards it, grasp a nipple and begin to suckle without any assistance."


  1. . The article on Attachment thoery isn't written in terms laypeople can understand. The excessive use of the word "theory" on the first page is one indication of the problem. (And the people who most need to be able to read about attachment are people raising children in the present or future--professionals and laypeople).
  2. . The Definition of Attachment theory leaves out a concept central to Bowlby's understanding--that of feedback systems and how they relate to attachment.
  3. . The article minimizes infant attachment which, as the first and initiating relationship lays the foundation for future relationships, is of central importance.
  4. . Attachment in infancy is described as it it appears suddenly after 6-10 months with no explanation of how it develops.

Jean says something very interesting (see Jan. 30, 2011)! about what caregivers do that help babies become more capable of attachment relationships. Bowlby wasn't thinking specifically about depressed caregivers, but certainly about what the caregiver does in the relationship.Margaret9mary (talk) 23:37, 4 February 2011 (UTC)

As I say - I don't have a problem with more material being added. It just has to be done in accordance with the ways of the encyclopaedia - otherwise the article will lose it's FA status and thus it's influence as an accurate account (amongst the heaps of rubbish peddled on the internet as attachment theory). The reason why I sound like a mother hen is twofold. Firstly it took months of struggle to wrest all the attachment articles from the control of attchment therapists with multitudes of socks peddling a dangerous pseudoscience. (They still periodically appear as socks). Secondly it took huge amounts of work to construct and formulate an article of suitable length that covers such a substantial topic to FA standard. Believe me - every word, phrase, source, dot and comma has been subjected to scrutiny. So - cluck! That is why it is concerning when well meaning editors alter material that reflects a source, to something that does not reflect the source. This falsifies the basis of the article. New or altered material needs to be properly sourced. If it is suggested existing material does not reflect the source - or does not reflect mainstream opinion then fine. Say so and change it. But what we cannot do is simply alter the text according to our own personal views regardless of sourcing. You may well be right in your reflections on attachment theory. Hooray! But to go in wiki it needs a source. I do not remotely have any problem with a whole new chunks of article along the lines you suggest - provided it is demonstrably valid, properly sourced etc etc etc. I look forward to your views when you have your copy of Cassidy and Shaver. Finally - it is customary on wikipedia to endeavour to discuss these matters on the talkpage without making personal remarks about other editors. We could all do that - so lets not eh? Fainites barleyscribs 10:58, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

"Forms of behaviour mediating attachment and their organization" p. 244

"In man attachment is mediated by several different sorts of behaviour of which the most obvious are crying and calling, babbling and smiling, clinging, non-nutritional sucking, and locomotion....
"The more specific forms of behaviour making for attachment can be grouped into two main classes:
i. signalling behaviour, the effect of which is to bring mother to child;
ii. approach behaviour, the effect of which is to bring child to mother." Bowlby, John (1982) Attachment. p 244.

In the Behavioral sciences Systems theory concerns reciprocal and/or interactive behaviors. A baby who approaches his/her mother(biological or other) and the mother doesn't reciprocate is experiencing an entirely different relationship with an entirely different message than if the mother does reciprocate.Margaret9mary (talk) 20:40, 10 February 2011 (UTC)Margaret9mary (talk) 00:32, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Are you okay?

Are you okay, Fainites? After weeks of your responding within hours to everything I wrote on the Talk page of Attachment theory and now four whole days have passed...!
I have found on p. 244 of Bowlby's Attachment a summary of what he was saying earlier in the book in which he includes crying and calling in attachment behavior. (see AT Talk page).

After puzzling over these last 2 months I've realized that systems theory--what JB called "control" systems theory--is what's missing from most of the secondary sources. (the index makes clear he is talking about feedback as a form of control). Explaining systems theory is a major problem--Bowlby dedicated over 2/5 of the book to it and Gregory Bateson spent many more years than Bowlby in trying to define systems theory/cybernetics. But it's hard to translate nonlinear thinking into linear language. It's an entirely different way of seeing and analyzing. As a nonlinear cross-disciplinary thinker myself I've seen up close the difficulties all my life. (So I wasn't misunderstanding what Bowlby was saying--I was hearing more of what he way saying).

Systems thinking can be compared to a tennis match--one doesn't watch just one player, but watches the ball and how the two players interact with it.
That's one reason why Bowlby goes back and forth between humans and animals--he's comparing similarities AND differences, drawing parallels and differentiating.

In systems theory--

  • One doesn't define the child as the sole seeker of proximity. Both the infant and the PAF (primary attachment figure) maintain proximity.
  • The infant is a subsystem, the PAF is a subsystem and the two interacting together are the whole system (or metasystem). Infant attachment and adult caregiving are reciprocal parts of a larger attachment behavioral system.
  • The infant's attachment behavior system is ready to be activated at birth. (p. 265) Bowlby describes in various places in the book how this system develops (see for eg. pp. 145-147).Margaret9mary (talk) 01:22, 15 February 2011 (UTC)
I'm fine thanks for asking. Just been a bit busy though I usual fiddle with Wiki most days as it makes a change from working. I always think that's one of the interesting things about Bowlby - the cross-disciplinary bit. He was a pioneer in so many ways. George and Solomon quietly point out that the main research in the 80s and 90s was around representations rather than systems - which they did their best to correct! They complain that the way in which the infants behavioural systems (attachment, exploration, affiliation) interact with each other and with the caregivers system are "as yet largely unexplored". The section in the article on this is a bit thin. They cite the caregiving system's behaviours as including retrieval, maintaining proximity, carrying, following, signalling, calling , looking, smiling etc etc. The childs attachment system is terminated by proximity or contact when the caregiver responds to the needs in a satisfactory manner. They propose the caregivers system is terminated in a similar manner. George and Solomon would certainly be a suitable secondary source on interaction between the systems. There is also the issue of competing systems of course. Fainites barleyscribs 09:09, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Fainites barleyscribs 13:36, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Handbook of Attachment

The Handbook on Attachment has finally arrived. I took a first look at articles, etc. and then looked in the index. Under "systems theory" 4 pages are listed; under "feedback"--nothing; under "cybernetics"--nothing. So there you have it--the scientific paradigm Bowlby considered central to understanding Attachment has been left out of the Handbook.
I've waited for years and seen how difficult it is for people to understand--and to define--systems theory. It's because it is a paradigm that is automatically omitted by the paradigm of classical science. See this article which explains the difficulty(see the first 8 pages). But then I checked the SUNY website and printed out 3 articles--Becoming Attached by Robert Karen; When Strangers Meet: J. Bowlby and H Harlow on Attachment Behavior; Bowlby's 1958 article The Nature of the Child's Tie to His Motherand a pamphlet written by Bowlby in 1958--Can I Leave My Baby?. Lots of interesting things found--in 1958 JB comments that fathers can care for a child perfectly well, and that if you leave a baby with a nanny the nanny "will be the real mother-figure"Margaret9mary (talk) 23:53, 18 February 2011 (UTC)
Yep! The father bit I had to argue for ages on the Maternal deprivation article with this chap who insisted Bowlby said it was natural mothers only. (And all part of a conspiracy to deprive men of their rights - women being all powerful world rulers of course). What did you think of the George and Solomon chapter? They say quite a bit about systems. Different behavioural systems in the infant and also the infants and caregivers systems.Fainites barleyscribs 00:04, 20 February 2011 (UTC)


Margaret please don't keep changing the lead without discussing it. This article is an FA and there are rules and policies about the lead. See WP:MOS and WP:LEAD.Fainites barleyscribs 21:34, 11 April 2011 (UTC)

The first paragraph should give people enough of an understanding of the subject so they will know if they want to continue reading. The first two sentences are not specific enough.
There was significant change in policies in child care in hospitals, orphanages, etc. as a result of Bowlby and Robertson's work in the 1950s in part because of the first-hand experiences of child care professionals during WWII. People don't make such dramatic changes unless they have first-hand experiences that speak to them.Bowlby simply put into words what they already knew.Margaret9mary (talk) 19:51, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
Actually Bowlby was behind the huge changes in the 50s as well. See Maternal deprivation. Fainites barleyscribs 20:44, 13 April 2011 (UTC)
Fainites? Yes, that's exactly what I meant.
But Bowlby's words could be so influential because he was speaking to people's first-hand experience.
Today many people don't seem to understand infant attachment, but they see that adults are unable to maintain long-term attachments, but get involved in serial marriages and are abandoning their children. No one has "tested" this, but it might have something to do with babies put in fulltime childcare shortly after birth--or after 6 months and before 2 years. That is to say, babies really do need a primary attachment figure in the first years. (Today many young people are abandoning their children and grandparents are taking over the responsibility. What will happen in the following generations?) Margaret9mary (talk) 22:37, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

Handbook of Attachment correction

Having settled down to reading the Handbook of Attachment with care I have found (among others) this quote: "From the moment of birth human infants are prepared to bond with their caregivers" and, "infants are biologically predisposed to form attachment bonds with their caregivers" Day-of-birth examples of behavior are given. (p. 136 and p. 137) #6 Attachment and Evolution (Simpson and Belsky). This makes sense; attachment as a biologically determined behavioral system must be present at birth and is activated when the infant begins to enter into relationships. What occurs after 7 months is that the system has developed to the point where it is obvious to all--as Bowlby states.Margaret9mary (talk) 21:47, 20 April 2011 (UTC) P.S. And see top of the page the first quote I cited: "When he is born, an ifant is...equipped with a number of behavioural systems ready to be activated." p. 265 (Bowlby, Attachment).Margaret9mary (talk) 21:56, 20 April 2011 (UTC)

Sure - but not the same as actual attachment. It's pre-attachment. what you are confusing is the forming of actual attachment with the biological readiness to form attachments. As you go through the handbook you will find this is made clear.Fainites barleyscribs 08:44, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
Several points;
  • You have altered the lead to Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from birth to three years of age. This used to read from 6 months. Your change is simply not correct.
  • you don't have consensus to make this change. Being born with a behavioural system is not the same as forming an attachment.
  • The lead should reflect the article in that it should contain a summary. Not your views. Your assumption based on the material above that infants become attached in those first few months is WP:OR.
  • I had understood from the discussions above that you felt the article lacked suffcient detail and explanation of the biologically determined behavioural system and early attachment behaviours. You are perfectly at liberty to put together a better section on this issue - or any other issue you think is missing. Once this is established in the article it should be reflected in the lead.
  • Simply adding to the lead that attachment starts at birth - which is a) not the case and b) not reflected in the article, is not acceptable in an FA.
  • I am puzzled by your approach. Matters have been discussed at great length and I had thought you were proposing to expand various apsect of the article you felt was lacking. All you have in fact done is make a few alterations to the lead. If you need any help with the technical aspects of putting together a section, citing, sourcing etc - feel free to ask.Fainites barleyscribs 13:10, 21 April 2011 (UTC)
I, too, am frustrated. My concern is that in the 40+ years since the first publication of Bowlby's Attachment attachment theorists have not clarified what the period of "pre-attachment" is. The term can easily lead to an unintended miscommunication--that somehow the period from birth to 6+ months doesn't matter and that having a consistent primary caregiver during that time is not important. The WP article certainly gives that impression. And in real life too often that's what's being practiced. In fact the period from birth to 6+ months is when attachment is developing although it's not yet clearly manifest. (Consider what would happen if an infant were left alone most of the time during that period--the result would be a serious delay in the development of attachment.) Babies need consistent care that is sensitive and responsive from birth--the period from birth is vitally important. Bowlby said so, although apparently he wasn't ready to state it emphatically enough to be heard. (I have personally witnessed its importance so I did hear him).
Sometimes the term "early attachment" is used in the Handbook but I haven't found yet what that is intended to mean. In any case it's a much better term. More accurate. It indicates this period is part of the process of developing attachment.
I felt very frustrated with these difficulties, but hadn't found an acceptable way to improve the article. So I waited over 3 months before doing anything to the article. I'm also in the process of developing a Simple WP article: Attachment in mammals--posted for the present on my User talk page.
I want to offer a definition of attachment organized from page 3 of Jean Mercer's 2010 article Attachment theory and its vicissitudes:
Attachment is a behavioral system that "regulate(s) sustained social relationships". The "functions of attachment involve dyadic emotional regulation"; "cognitive and behavioral factors are also present."Margaret9mary (talk) 22:34, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

Moved from article

Depending on the living and child-rearing arrangements of the culture in which a child is raised, it may thus be normal[1] for a child's attachment figures to be found beyond a nuclear family group, and for the culture's family and kinship norms to reflect these diffuse patterns of care, nurture and emotional ties[2], as in nurture kinship.

I've put this here as it wasn't in the right place and it's not clear where it best fits. I'm not sure it adds anything to the article as attachment doesn't presuppose a "nuclear family" anyway.Fainites barleyscribs 21:09, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

I am happy for this to be adjusted, but I think it is worthwhile for some essence of the point to appear in the article.
This point, in broad terms, is to clarify that the gender/number/genetic relationship (...and more) of the attachment figure/s is non-deterministic, and indeed can be very flexible. This paragraph of the article already makes this point in reference to gender and in reference to the potential number of attachment figures. I think we should add the same point in reference to genetic relationship and that this would be a logical paragraph in which to make it.
It is an important point because it pre-empts possible prejudices in regard to essentializing the care-giving relationship as being 'most naturally' the role of a certain individual... which can then get transformed, via the naturalistic fallacy, into a moral stance. This prejudice occurs in relation to gender, number of figures, and also genetic relationship (where e.g. 'adoption' is seen as un-natural). Here is what Bowlby said:
“In the discussion so far it has been implied that a child directs his behaviour towards one particular figure, referred to either as his mother-figure or even simply as his mother. This usage, which for the sake of brevity is unavoidable, has nonetheless given rise on occasion to misunderstanding [Bowlby inserts a note which reads:] For example, it has sometimes been alleged that I have expressed the view that mothering should always be provided by a child’s natural mother and also that mothering ‘cannot be safely distributed among several figures’ (Mead, 1962). No such views have been expressed by me.” (Bowlby 1982, 303)
The edit made the point via pointing to the cross-cultural studies that support the commonality of the pattern of multiple attachment figures and flexibility in regard to both gender and genetic relationship (although the latter was phrased beyond a nuclear family group - we could phrase it differently). A generation of ethnographers have lent support to attachment theory, through the concept of nurture kinship and I think it would be of value to point out how ethnography's findings lend further support to attachment theory. DMSchneider (talk) 22:30, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
The article says Infants form attachments to any consistent caregiver who is sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them. The quality of the social engagement is more influential than the amount of time spent. The biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a "mothering" way over a period of time. In attachment theory, this means a set of behaviours that involves engaging in lively social interaction with the infant and responding readily to signals and approaches. Certainly it does not require any common genes! However, I can see that the following sentence about fathers may give the wrong impression. (That had to be included somewhere due to the number of people who believe Bowlby says it was Mother's only. For more on that issue see the Maternal deprivation talkpages). Rather bthan get involved in ethnographic phrases like nurture kinship, it may be better to find a source that states the obvious (ie no common genes required) and add it. What do you think? Fainites barleyscribs 21:57, 5 March 2012 (UTC)


Within the section Behaviours, maybe something has been altered, deleted or misplaced, but this is plainly incorrect.

During the second phase (two to six months), the infant increasingly discriminates between familiar and unfamiliar adults, becoming more responsive towards the caregiver; following and clinging are added to the range of behaviours.

The part attached by a semi-colon is erroneous. Infants between two and six months do not "follow" anyone, because they have yet to reach crawling stage. Infants between two and six months have not reached the "clinging" stage. Clinging comes with crawling, at the stage when the child has developed the muscular strength in its arms. Following and clinging occur in the third stage, not the second.

Amandajm (talk) 12:33, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Yes something has been removed as it definitely made sense originally! When I have a moment I will look back to see what it was.Fainites barleyscribs 13:15, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Inadvertent change of meaning

Umm...para 3 in this edit changes "Bowlby's original sensitivity period of between six months and two to three years has been modified to a less "all or nothing" approach." to "Bowlby's original sensitivity period of between six months and two to three years has been modified to an "all or nothing" approach." " ....which seems to flip/invert the meaning....unless I am missing something....? Tanya is this what you meant to write here...Casliber (talk · contribs) 15:03, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

I did not intend on changing the meaning of anything on the article. I think it's great article! I was just looking for ways to help. I am sorry if I made mistakes. Please do fix them. :) Tanya ✫♫♥ 15:38, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Duh! I really had no clue what everyone was talking about, knowing I did nothing wrong on purpose, so I did not mind apologizing at all. Now I finally see what you are all talking about. It took me a while to get the part "to a less" - I just thought it was a typo, and it took me a few reads to see why it is not, but I got it now! Sorry! Tanya ♥♫ 21:24, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
Okay, no worries :) Casliber (talk · contribs) 01:30, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Please revert the other "inadvertences" that Fanities is concerned about above. It's these subtle changes that are the most disturbing. MathewTownsend (talk) 01:50, 25 August 2012 (UTC)

Criticism/Alternate theory section missing


Looking at this article, which is quite extensive, I was very surprised by the lack of a "Criticism" or "Alternative Theory" part, as is customary for most article which present a scientific theory. is there any reason why there is no reference to the criticisms or alternative to this theory, except that no one found time to write about it of course? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:23, 29 August 2012 (UTC)

Moved from article

Apologies for the delay in continuing the discussion we were having earlier in the year on this topic. We were at this point:

(...)The edit made the point via pointing to the cross-cultural studies that support the commonality of the pattern of multiple attachment figures and flexibility in regard to both gender and genetic relationship (although the latter was phrased beyond a nuclear family group - we could phrase it differently). A generation of ethnographers have lent support to attachment theory, through the concept of nurture kinship and I think it would be of value to point out how ethnography's findings lend further support to attachment theory. DMSchneider (talk) 22:30, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

The article says Infants form attachments to any consistent caregiver who is sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them. The quality of the social engagement is more influential than the amount of time spent. The biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a "mothering" way over a period of time. In attachment theory, this means a set of behaviours that involves engaging in lively social interaction with the infant and responding readily to signals and approaches. Certainly it does not require any common genes! However, I can see that the following sentence about fathers may give the wrong impression. (That had to be included somewhere due to the number of people who believe Bowlby says it was Mother's only. For more on that issue see the Maternal deprivation talkpages). Rather bthan get involved in ethnographic phrases like nurture kinship, it may be better to find a source that states the obvious (ie no common genes required) and add it. What do you think? Fainites barleyscribs 21:57, 5 March 2012 (UTC) (...)

With that excerpt from the previous discussion... I agree with Fainites that a more succinct summary of the position regarding diverse attachment figures would be good. The most thorough source for this is probably "Social Bonding and Nurture Kinship" a doctoral monograph from LSE (I'll find a proper reference for it). I think, were it able to be made concisely, it would be very positive to mention the strong cross-disciplinary support from anthropology. Recall that Ainsworth's research in Uganda bridged between attachment theory and anthropology, and that Bowlby consulted anthropological data thoroughly, and was keen to construct the theory in a way that was cross-culturally valid. However, I defer to your judgement on how this cross-disciplinary confirmation should best be noted here. Please share your thoughts. I will come back with that reference.DMSchneider (talk) 23:26, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

Here is a link to the electronically published edition of the source There is also a freely available digital copy (PDF) at SSRN: which is easier to get hold of, and should probably be the one given in the article's refs.

In terms of the edit, given that the sentence (Fainites mentions above) about fathers (i.e. gender) perhaps suggests the wrong emphasis, we could re-write this part to state these three points (gender / single-multiple / genetic-tie-or-not) clearly and unambiguously. There are also, in the Tenets section, passing mentions of the genetic-tie-or-not point (Infants in their first months have no preference for their biological parents over strangers) and the single-multiple point (These figures are arranged hierarchically, with the principal attachment figure at the top), but the relevance of these could be made more explicit: the point that - there is great flexibility of the infant in this regard, and a concomitant variety of patterns that are found across cultures - should definitely be made clear (& give the ref for details / examples). This will avoid the common temptation to essentialize as 'natural' the typical pattern of a narrower range of attachment figures that often form in e.g. western societies, and thus avoid any ethnocentrism. Please give your thoughts, and I will draft an edit.DMSchneider (talk) 14:26, 19 September 2012 (UTC)

In accord with the above, I have now adjusted the article in an appropriate section to include the following sentence - The particular patterns of caregiving arrangements vary greatly across human cultures, and the infant attachment system has the flexibility to adapt to all these patterns - and included a reference to the source mentioned above. I also made a couple of minor edits to the flow of existing sentences to reflect the flexibility regarding gender/number/genetic-tie-or-not point noted above, and guard against any possible suggestion of determinism or ethnocentrism etc. Please jump in with comments, or adjust the edit, if you have ideas on how to further improve the presentation of these points in the article.DMSchneider (talk) 23:12, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

Thanks to Fainites for brushing up my recent edits to the article. I feel that the way these points are now presented is pretty decent, notwithstanding the possibility for any future improvements to this already excellent page. I will endeavour to point wikilinks back here, in pages on related topics. Keep up the good work.DMSchneider (talk) 00:46, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

Merger proposal

I propose that Primary caregiver be merged into Attachment theory. Primary caregiver is an important concept in attachment theory, but what can be written about this that should not be written in attachment theory??? Lova Falk talk 18:08, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

well, you could add parts about primary caregivers who are not the parents, say nannies and (in the days of slavery) slaves, house maids and such. In some societies a child has a wet nurse and only lives in the home after the wet nurse period is over. See milk kinship. I'm not an expert but I think "attachment" to parents often exists, even when the parents aren't the primary caregivers. e.g. when the child is boarded for most of their childhood. Also primary caregiver status can arise in child custody and guardianship cases legally. MathewTownsend (talk) 19:15, 2 September 2012 (UTC)
Primary caregiver has lots of meanings and connotations to it, as Mathew mentioned. Not all of these relate to attachment theory. Perhaps adding a section on primary caregiver would suffice in explaining the relationship between the two concepts LiL mIsS pRiNc3sS (talk) 10:57, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
I'll remove the tags, hoping that one day somebody will add all the meanings and connotations of primary caregiver. (I will not do this myself because I don't know enough about it) Lova Falk talk 12:43, 29 September 2012 (UTC)

Renewed attachment

Renewed attachment ==  — Preceding unsigned comment added by Margaret9mary (talkcontribs) 23:00, 17 October 2012 (UTC) 

Hello Fainites, et al! I see good progress is being made with the article. A number of things have been made much clearer--such as referring to "patterns of attachment" and "forming internal working models." I read a significant part of the book you recommended and found that, while that's where the discussion is among a large group of professionals it leaves out some critically important essentials: Leaving out 1) Ethology might seem to simplify things, but then that leaves out evolution 2) Brain development and 3) Empathy are crucial for the development of normal social relationships, etc.

Then I saw that you removed my "inaccurate addition" of Sept. 17--"Relationships later in life are built on this primary [neurological and social] foundation [of infant attachment]." This brief reference connects to what is said in other parts of the article--about forming internal working models and that "The quality of caregiving shapes the development of neurological systems which regulate stress." (see the section after line 175 which can be found in the revision of 15 Sept 2012) and in fact all neurological development. Also, how are you going to extend the theory to attachment in adults(paragraph 5)? And in the section of ethology: Bowlby recognized the parallels between imprinting in birds and attachment in mammals, although they evolved separately, and refers to the "unification of psychoanalytic concepts with those of ethology." Ethology is central to attachment theory and with it evolution.

Therefore the following facts need to be taken into account in discussing attachment, even if they don't need to be discussed in detail. Infant attachment is inseparable from brain development. The human infant's brain triples in volume in the first 5 years--it doubles in volume in just the first year(!)as it records early life experiences.
While infant attachment to the mother is found in all mammals, human infants are born extremely helpless because of an incompletely developed brain. Our large brains could not pass through the reduced size of the birth canal of a bipedal and increased Post-natal brain development is necessary for the learning of social behavior and culture--see also secondary altriciality. (As a comparison, chimpanzee brains double in volume in the first 5 years). So brain and neurological development and attachment go hand-in-hand.
Keep in mind that Darwin didn't have DNA evidence when he wrote his theory of evolution. He only had long and careful direct observation from life, but that sufficed to lay an accurate foundation. Bowlby worked in much the same way with equally accurate results.

Some mammals clearly manifest attachment from birth, such as herd animals that can follow their mother from the first hours. Primate infants can cling effectively within a few days. Other mammals are born blind (canines, felines, rodents) so they are quite helpless for a week or two. But human babies are so helpless they must depend on others to carry them for over 6 months. They therefore can seek proximity only through social behaviors such as crying and cooing--that is, the mother (or other) must seek proximity for them. That IS what Bowlby said. Humans are also the most adaptable of living beings--human babies can adapt to a single mother-or-other or to a large extended family and non-kin caregivers. That degree of variation makes it hard to study.
It's misleading to say that attachment begins at 6 months. Imagine newborn infants left most of the day in isolation except for the care of physical needs. They wouldn't have any social development at all. Some of Harry Harlow's studies of baby rhesus monkeys provide evidence of precisely that.

Instead the separation distress that begins at or after 6 months is in preparation for the child beginning to crawl or walk.  Baby and mother need to keep close during this development.
Yes, I know this forum is not supposed to discuss this, but if you are going to delete these foundational realities from the article you had better delete Bowlby and indeed the whole article.

Bowlby was writing the initial draft of an understanding of attachment and he was doing it in the face of great opposition from his colleagues. There were many things that he couldn't state as obviously as we would have liked. Also he was quintessentially an interdisciplinary thinker, something much more common 50-100 years ago but which many people today have difficulty following.
When you systematically deleted my contributions two years ago I wondered if I was wrong, or if I was reading another Bowlby. So I reread that first book on Attachment very carefully. One has to read slowly to see where he was hesitating, struggling to find the words, or trying to avoid something that would cause misunderstandings. But yes, he saw the foundations of the bond of attachment beginning to develop from birth. Before you say that I'm wrong again go read the book as carefully as I did. Margaret9mary (talk) 19:05, 17 October 2012 (UTC). 22:55, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Margaret9mary (talk) 23:41, 17 October 2012 (UTC)--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:40, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

The purpose of attachment

The behavioral system of Attachment in infancy serves various purposes--protection from predators, yes, but also for social learning. They learn social skills and other behaviors. We have mirror neurons so we can learn from observing others. The mother-or-other primary caregiver provides an external working model with whom the infant interacts and observes as the infant develops their own internal working model.
All mammals are social animals and systems of infant-mother attachment exist among all mammals. And all infant mammals learn through observing and interacting. Humans with their much larger brain have much more to learn of complex cultural behaviors and social interactions.--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:15, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

Hi Margaret9mary! You seem to know a lot and care strongly about attachment theory. However, you cannot just change sourced text because you think it is wrong, and you cannot add text without a reliable source. With friendly regards, Lova Falk talk 11:32, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Re a citation--it can be found in beginning classes of college biology.
Proximity is widely used by adult animals as protection against predators. Fishes swim in schools, birds fly in flocks. Protecting young against predators is one way of increasing genetic survival--it begins early--found even in some reptiles. In ground dwelling birds imprinting is essential for survival. But "mother nature" piggy backs many uses together. Learning from observing others who already know something is common because it's easier than learning by trial and error. Learned behavior allows for greater flexibility than genetic programming--a factor found in evolution. So babies following their mother for protection's sake also learn by watching her.
But all of these factors are precursors to attachment.
All mammals are social beings. The mother-infant bond is central. Nursing requires proximity. So infant mammals stay close to their mothers for protection from predators and things they don't yet know about--among human hunter-gatherers cooking fires were a more freuqent danger than predators--for food and also for learning.

And because humans have such a large brain and much of instinctive behavior is modified by culture, learning is paramount. Bowlby was very aware of this. He did not say that protection from predators was the only purpose of attachment--although it might have been the originating purpose earlier in evolution.--Margaret9mary (talk) 22:04, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

Hi again! Even statements that are so basic that you have learned them in beginning classes of college biology still need mention of sources in a Wikipedia article. Please read WP:source. "Even if you're sure something is true, it must be verifiable before you can add it." Lova Falk talk 09:04, 23 October 2012 (UTC)
Hi Lova! I Know! I know! the need for accessible sources...and some of this data is seen briefly in high school. But a short and easy-to-read source is not necessarily easily accessible. Wikipedia could and should be that source. I checked WP articles on Ethology, Evolution and Comparative Psychology and Comparative Anatomy; I wouldn't recommend them to the casual reader. That's probably why the rules say it must be "verifiable"--even when it isn't verified.
--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:33, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

Observable attachment behaviors (edited for clarity)

But there are other difficulties. In college, graduate school work requires vast amounts of reading, so that students get in the habit of skimming. The teacher's interpretation may override a reading of the text. It's easy to miss many things that way, especially with Bowlby. People forget that he was laying the foundations of a new approach in the face of great opposition from his erstwhile colleagues. He could talk openly about the more obvious aspect of attachment--such as when babies start crying and following their mother--but could only hint at other things.
For example, in Chapter 11 he says, " some stage in the development of the behavioral systems responsible for attachment, proximity to mother becomes a set-goal." that is to say, the child's physical efforts to maintain proximity come later. But in the next sentence he lists 5 patterns of behavior: "sucking, clinging, following, crying and contributing to attachment." (Had he listed them in the order they emerge it would be sucking and crying--which exist at birth--smiling, clinging, following). (p.180 in the 1999 edition before the subheading Attachment behavior and its place in nature).
But amidst the controversies that followed the definition of attachment became reduced to only the infant physically seeking proximity, which was obvious even to casual observers.

In his Forward to the 1999 edition, Alan Schore says, " Bowlby surveys the uncharted territory of mother-infant relationally driven psychobiological processes, he identifies its essential topographical landmarks..." Bowlby had the mind of a mapmaker who could see all the parts and figure out how they fit together. He recognized that in some mammals the infant follows from birth (herd animals on foot and most primates through clinging) but that in others (gorillas--p.191--and humans--p. 183) the mother provides proximity in the first days or months.

Newborn human babies have such immaturity of brain that it's very hard to study them according to the demands of modern scientific methodology. But Bowlby, like Darwin and other scientists before them, depended entirely on very perceptive direct observation. It's very frustrating to see that Attachment theory has become so complex and disputed as a science--when laypeople from the time of hunter-gatherer mothers could understand it intuitively. .-- (talk) 23:30, 25 October 2012 (UTC)--Margaret9mary (talk) 23:36, 25 October 2012 (UTC)--Margaret9mary (talk) 16:18, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

First, who wrote this? There are two different signatures to this text. Is this (talk) or Margaret9mary (talk? Or do both signatures belong to the same person?
Second, the talk page is for discussing the article. There is no section in the article called "Observable attachment behaviors", so what part of the article do you want to discuss? With friendly regards, Lova Falk talk 18:05, 26 October 2012 (UTC)
I had to take a break and the computer logged me out. So I saved and then logged in and saved again.--Margaret9mary (talk) 16:22, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Greater clarity needed in defining attachment

No, there isn't a section on observable attachment behaviors--yet.

The debate over attachment has lasted for over 40 years unresolved. And the effects of having an increasing number of infants put into child care near birth needs to be assessed. The children seem to do okay; they don't react as strongly to changes in caregiver; as they get older they enter easily into casual relationships. But more and more on reaching adulthood people are having serious difficulties in sustaining healthy long-term intimate relationships. More grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Lack of commitment to individual and community relationships is leading to a significant rise in illegal and sociopathic behaviors. A lack of sense of what's needed to sustain community is increasing with each generation. Bowlby saw the connection between disrupted attachment and delinquent behavior decades before he began working on attachment.

I've found that reading Bowlby paragraph by paragraph, and rereading, stopping to think, reveals many answers to questions that are as yet unresolved. (I can cite pages) In scores of places he indicates attachment as earlier and more complex than is recognized today; and he poses problems in a way that suggests a direction to solve them. For example, in the definition of attachment he doesn't just analyze the similarities and differences between imprinting in birds and attachment in mammals. He distinguishes between ground-dwelling birds (ducks and geese) and tree-nesting birds; and between mammals that walk or cling from birth (herd animals and most primates) and those that depend on the mother to seek/maintain proximity in the first days or months. This is due to genetic differences. Tree nesting baby birds are born more immature, with smaller brains, are relatively safe in a tree but can't fly; they are altricial--like humans but less so. His discussion raises the question--why do some mammals demonstrate attachment behavior at birth and some seem so delayed?

I would like to contribute to the article and help make the article on attachment more comprehensible for laypeople; but when I did so last time what I added was immediately deleted, apparently under the assumption that I didn't know what I was talking about or perhaps assuming I belonged to the attachment parenting position. Your comments include indications of a willingness to listen so I must ask you--What do I do about deletions without room for discussion?

I've read more than Bowlby's Attachment, but my main experience with attachment parenting was observing mothers with their babies in Mexico in the 1960-70s, a working system of behaviors shared in community and passed down from generation to generation--very different from the U.S. (which is more experimental and inclined to excess). I also have extensive experience in reparenting myself which greatly contributed to my understanding. (PhD. in UDLV)
(P.S. Carta has a great article on the closing of fontanelles which clarifies the time table for brain growth-- Margaret9mary (talk) 17:09, 29 October 2012 (UTC)--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:09, 29 October 2012 (UTC)-- (talk) 21:36, 29 October 2012 (UTC)--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:56, 29 October 2012 (UTC)--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:59, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Being able to think clearly is a necessary adjunct to scientific study. As of now, in the 2nd section (Attachment) the article says "The theory proposes that children attach to carers instinctively,[10] for the purpose of survival and, ultimately, genetic replication."[note #11] As it stands this would imply that incest is a natural outcome of infant attachment.
Probably what it meant to say is that the experience of attachment in infancy lays the neurological, social and emotional foundations on which, years later, the peer relationship of adult attachment with a spouse or long-term partner will be sustained; and this may well involve genetic replication. But the sentence as it stands can easily be misunderstood. I removed "and, ultimately, genetic replication." Why?--Margaret9mary (talk) 21:36, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

Attachment theory article: addition

(Copied from Lova Falk's talk page)

Hi Lova Falk,

I once tried to add information about Gordon Neufeld to your Attachment theory article and you said: 'Removed attachment researcher - in order to be in this section, there should be text on what contributions this researchers has made to the development of attachment theory)'

So I finally found the link with such a text: [2]:

He also developed a comprehensive theory of attachment that includes six stages in the development of the capacity for relationship, the construct of polarization that explains both shyness and defensive detachment. His model of attachment is universal in both its application (adults as well as children) and implementation (school as well as home).

I don't want to bother you with deleting my stuff again ;) So I'm asking you to decide yourself whether this information and the person belongs to this article. Thanks in advance! Irenru (talk) 09:01, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

The text that I (Lova Falk) previously had removed was the following:

Canadian psychologist Gordon Neufeld based his nowaday psychological attachment research on Bowlby's attachment theory.<ref>{{Cite web − | title = The possible future attachment paradigm| work = Strategies to Learn & Grow − | accessdate = 2012-11-04 − | url = − }}</ref>

Hi Irenru, thank you for your message! As far as I can see, Neufeld is not really a researcher. A google scholar search for "Gordon Neufeld" attachment renders no scientific article written by him, yet he is mentioned in quite a few articles.
None of the sources either in Gordon Neufeld or in your sentence are even close to secondary sources - that is, a source that involves "generalization, analysis, synthesis, interpretation, or evaluation of the original information." Your source is from Omega, and Neufeld is one of their teachers. They have a commercial motivation for praising him. So, my point of view is, obviously Neuman is an author that is quite well-known, and I'll add a See also link to his article, but in order to write some text about him in this article, you need to have a better source, one that evaluates his contributions in a neutral way.
But please, anybody else who watches this article, add your opinion on this! Lova Falk talk 09:05, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Thank you very much, I appreciate your opinion! Let's hope someone finds a better source. Irenru (talk) 10:31, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Dear Finites!

Clarifying certain issues concerning infant attachment would greatly improve the article. As it stands now its written for professionals, not laypeople.
There's another issue I refer you to Chapter 11 of Bowlby's Attachment--The Child's Tie to his Mother: Attachment Behavior. Specifically the first two subheadings.
The first--Alternative theories--briefly describes psychoanalytic writings on a child's response to separation or loss and states this is "a new theory" (p. 177) and "The hypothesis to be advanced here is different.." (p. 179). But he does take from it sucking and clinging as "closest to the hypothesis now proposed.." He then mentions "five patterns of behavior--sucking, clinging, following, crying and smiling...contributing to attachment," which between the ages of 9 and 18 months, "usually become incorporated into a far more sophisticated goal-corrected system."
The problem Bowlby faced, it seems,was that although even casual observers had seen human and animal babies following their mother, they did not relate the other behaviors--sucking and crying at birth, and smiling and clinging, as liable to promote the mother seeking proximity before the child could do it for him/herself.
In the next subheading--Attachment behavior and its place in nature-- he describes the analogous behavior of birds and mammals re imprinting and attachment (similar purpose, evolved separately). He clarifies the difference between ground dwelling birds (ducks, geese) compared to tree nesting birds--and herd animals (that maintain proximity by walking shortly after birth) and most primates (that can sustain their weight by clinging) in comparison to rodents and carnivores that are blind and helpless at birth, gorillas that can't sustain their weight at birth (p. 191) and humans who are "born so very immature" (p. 183). In the latter cases both birds and mammals must depend on their mother(father) to achieve proximity at first.
THE QUESTION IS WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ATTACHMENT? Mammals are social beings and as babies their social abilities through interacting with others--and humans share genetically those foundations of social behavior. That seems to be the reason for Bowlby's emphasis on ethology.
Leaving out the five behaviors and beginning attachment at 6 months implies that the baby is not developing socially until suddenly it appears out of nowhere. Tracing early attachment behaviors from birth makes much more sense.
Bowlby mentions in various places throughout the book that the mother also seeks and/or maintains proximity, especially in response to danger but also to an infant's distress--not just to danger but also pain, hunger or aloneness/separation.
The five behaviors have been left out of the WP definition of attachment and the definition of attachment has been restricted to the infant physically seeking proximity when they develop mobility. But in the above cited chapter and in various other places in the book Bowlby mentions that attachment behavior in seeking proximity is a reciprocal behavior.--Margaret9mary (talk) 17:55, 31 October 2012 (UTC) will edit later.--Margaret9mary (talk) 17:55, 31 October 2012 (UTC) further--Margaret9mary (talk) 22:57, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

AND FRANKLY I THINK THE REASON WHY THE ATTACHMENT PARENTING MOVEMENT IS SO EXTREME AND SLIGHTLY HYSTERICAL AT TIMES IS BECAUSE MANY MOTHERS HAVE OBSERVED THAT THEIR BABY IS BEGINNING TO BOND FROM BIRTH and they don't buy the professional interpretation of attachment. If this is so, by ignoring what Bowlby said and what laypeople have observed discredits science and causes harm to millions of babies. After all, why are you writing about attachment--to help laypeople, aren't you? Remember the hypothesis that animals don't feel emotions? Pet owners didn't buy that either.--Margaret9mary (talk) 22:57, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

The article is about attachment theory - not what people think attachment theory ought to be. Up to 6 months they are called pre-attachment behaviours. This is described by Bowlby - as is the reciprocation.Fainites barleyscribs 18:35, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
Margaret9mary, please don't shout. --Wally Tharg (talk) 17:31, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Clarifying attachment

A problem with present day attachment theory is that it has missed some crucially important points that Bowlby made about attachment.
In your article, you state that attachment doesn't begin before 6 months. This is not what Bowlby said.
Bowlby did give the example of an infant following its mother as clear evidence of attachment because people have seen this behavior in animals and humans; but he said that in the case of mammals that can't walk at birth the mother responds to the baby's cries and approaches until the baby can follow her.
He compared ground-nesting birds (e.g. swans, geese) with tree-nesting birds. And he compared herd animals with other types of mammals (e.g. canids) and humans.
Ground-nesting birds must be able to follow their mother from birth as a matter of survival. Obviously tree-nesting birds can't follow their parents until they can fly. (And imprinting is not the same as following).
In a similar way herd animals (deer, cattle, horses, elephants!) must be able to follow their mother within a few hours of birth. Other animals are blind at birth and helpless (rats, felines, canids) and can't possibly follow at birth.
In the case of humans who are born with a more 'immature' brain than other mammals and therefore are even more helpless, they must go through various months of development before they can walk.
Following is not attachment. Attachment is a type of bonding and bonding starts taking place from birth.
Take a case where the mother leaves the baby in a crib alone all day, not responding to its cries except to take care of its physical needs--ignoring its social and emotional needs. In such a situation, Pre-walking attachment would not take place. The baby wouldn't be ready to follow its mother when it started to walk.
Calling pre-walking attachment pre-attachment is misleading. The mother/primary attachment figure must do the approaching until the baby can approach him/her. The bond of attachment does best when it begins at birth. This missed paradigm is at the center of the "craziness" of attachment parenting. It's a tragedy that has led to much confusion because something this obvious was missed.
If you want me to cite my sources I cite Bowlby. (talk) 21:19, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

Relevance of pictures

I struggled with the relevance of some of the pictures, especially the second one. Is this intended to show a baby attached to his parent, or one attached to someone other than his mother (e.g. a sibling)? If the former, then it is rather like a newspaper printing a picture of 'a man yesterday'; if obviously the latter, it would add something to the article, by reinforcing the fact that the primary attachment need not be to the parent. At present it might even look like "we desperately need a picture of a cute African child here". --Wally Tharg (talk) 17:31, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Hi Wally Tharg! I think the problem with the second picture is not so much the picture as the text. A text about physical proximity to a caregiver and attachment would be more relevant. I'll see what I can do. Lova Falk talk 08:34, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

Wot, no oxytocin?

How can a whole article discuss human attachment without mentioning oxytocin, the hormone that mediates pair-bonding in (many or most) humans, or indeed without mentioning hormones or prairie voles? Unfortunately I'm not an endocrinologist, so I can't hack the article authoritatively. Any takers? (Given that this is a psychology article, it need only be a reference to articles/pages discussing the hormonal side.) --Wally Tharg (talk) 10:12, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Hi Wally Tharg! As probably no one editing this article is an endocrinologist, why not find a good source and write a few sentences about it yourself? As you said yourself, this is a psychology article after all... Lova Falk talk 08:48, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

Sources: oxytocin

Just as an example of what's available online that can be found in a few minutes--
Oxytocin was discovered by Sir Henry Dale in 1906.
It's triggered by childbirth, nursing and sex. Hence it's a bonding hormone that reinforces ongoing social relationships. It's also involved in establishing attachment.
These articles don't clarify why the prairie vole was selected for the definitive studies of oxytocin. The prairie vole (a type of rodent) is among the few mammals that are socially monogamous. It was found that their oxytocin receptors are located in a part of their brain that allows them to identify their mate. I would have to locate the article that described this.
Jessica Wright (15 Nov. 2010) Simons Foundation for Autism (SFARI). The prairie vole: an emerging model organism for understanding the social brain.
S. Dingfielder (June, 2007) What voles reveal about monogamy; American Psychological Assn. Vol 38, No. 6.
And of course WP psychology of sexual monogamy.
And see for example C. Sue Carter and Lowell L Getz(1993) Monogamy and the prairie vole; Scientific American 268 No. 6. Carter and Getz worked together for many years) And the Vole Research Community at Emory University studies the neuroendocrinology of social bonds, etc. (Unfortunately I've forgotten all the minutiae of posting citations online for WP). Margaret9mary205.167.120.201 (talk) 23:17, 4 March 2014 (UTC) Margaret9mary205.167.120.201 (talk) 23:32, 7 March 2014 (UTC)Margaret9mary205.167.120.201 (talk) 15:24, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Securing Attachment

I recommend Wikipedia to many people: it's the place to get a quick overview of a subject and a good place to initiate a more extended investigation. This article has many things to recommend it. And of course there are a few things that can be significantly improved.
The article doesn't include recent findings about brain development as it relates to attachment. Humans have by far the greatest post-natal brain development of all species, including mammals. Attachment in human infants occurs during the period of the greatest brain development--doubling in volume in the first year and tripling in the first 4-5 years of life--during which the infant brain is neurologically establishing foundational patterns of perception, social relatedness and self-regulation. This neurological programming manifests itself in outward behaviors. The infant attachment-adult caregiving relationship supports this fragile period of development and the family acts as a "social womb" for the child. During this early period of development patterns of relatedness are established that underlie all further attachment relationships, and a secure attachment in infancy facilitates long-term committed relationships of emotional intimacy in adulthood. Bowlby didn't have the information on brains of the last 10 years but he accurately observed the outward signs of it.
There is a need to differentiate between infant attachment which is an infant-caregiver bond of relationship and that of reciprocal adult attachment relationships. On the 2nd page there is a heading of ATTACHMENT that could better be INFANT ATTACHMENT and dedicated to this initial relationship.

A few years ago I contributed to this article and found that I had read Bowlby, ethology and evolution with much greater care than many but hadn't read secondary sources on attachment. Because of this some editors felt I wasn't qualified to comment much less edit. The dispute was over whether social relatedness and attachment begin developing from birth, or whether it can't be called attachment until it's openly manifested (by crying when the person[s] who mothers (v.) leaves, and by following behaviors when the infant can crawl or walk).
Attachment is like language--the child understands far more than s/he can express. This is a matter of elemental reasoning, and laypeople have been greatly confused and/or upset by the insistence of scientists in claiming that attachment doesn't begin until 6 months or later--i.e. when it can be "readily observed by all" as Bowlby said. This miscommunication between scientists and laypeople has contributed to a loss of trust in science by laypeople and the rise of an extreme form of "attachment parenting." I'm now ready to cite chapter and verse that Bowlby recognized that attachment was in process of developing from birth even if he couldn't prove it and thereby categorically state it. He especially couldn't do so because of opposition from his prior colleagues in psychoanalysis. But he did leave more than enough evidence and I'm now ready to cite him on this. I am Margaret9mary and I need to change my password to sign formally. (talk) 03:27, 10 December 2013 (UTC)san juan, Farmington, NM

Hi Margaret9mary, welcome back to Wikipedia. I'm sorry to read of your negative experience. I hope you'll try again to edit. In my experience, compared to a few years ago, it is now even more important to have good sources for text that is added. WP:MEDRS applies also to many psychology articles. With friendly regards, Lova Falk talk 17:15, 28 December 2013 (UTC)
Hi Lova. Citations are good. But careful reading is equally essential. Some issues should not need a reference because they are a matter of basic logic. For example on line 19 it says children bond to their caregivers...ultimately "for genetic replication." This is a violation of the infant-caregiver relationship. I hope I don't have to explain that, like 4-month-old fetuses who have lungs but don't have lung maturity, infants have genitals but have not reached puberty and lack the social skills to negotiate sexual relationships. Infant attachment is for nutrition, protection, nurturing, and providing a model to establish patterns of self-regulation, social behavior and for life skills. Developing the existing potential for attachment in childhood, especially secure attachment, allows the person when grown to initiate and sustain relationships in order to bear and raise their own children. Margaret9mary205.167.120.201 (talk) 00:23, 5 March 2014 (UTC) Margaret9mary205.167.120.201 (talk) 23:37, 7 March 2014 (UTC)
There is another issue that needs to be considered. If a newborn infant doesn't begin to bond from birth they will not develop within the first 6 months to a year the behavior at present being considered attachment--i.e. the ability to show distress at the departure of their primary caregiver. To do so would be life-threatening before sufficient development of the brain. And obviously an infant can't follow until they have begun to crawl.
In saying attachment isn't present before 6 months has led to major misunderstandings with laypeople. It suggests that the first months after birth are unimportant for the child's social and emotional development.Margaret9mary205.167.120.201 (talk) 23:55, 7 March 2014 (UTC)
Hi Margaret9mary, and thank you for your comments. Actually, we DO need a reference even though you might think they are a matter of basic logic. This article is about Attachment theory and actually, the theory DOES mention "genetic replication" - a statement that is sourced. Now you cannot change sourced content just because you have another opinion. So I'll change it back to what it was originally. With friendly regards, Lova Falk talk 19:22, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

General format

The first section of any Wikipedia article should be a brief definition, simple and clear--like an abstract--written so that people can determine if they want to read further.

Attachment theory began with infant attachment--the first relationship a newborn experiences--the foundation on which all further bonds of attachment will be built.

John Bowlby was the first to develop attachment theory. Although his studies were in the psychiatry and psychoanalysis of the era, he soon questioned a number of their tenets. His interest was in childhood and how real life events affect children. He quickly grasped the concepts of ethology--the comparative study of behavior of different species of animals--and how this related to human behavior. He understood that babies are social beings from birth and that humans are the most helpless of infants with the greatest degree of post-natal brain development. But all mammals are social beings; in infancy they stay close to the one who acts as their primary caregiver. Infants develop socially and emotionally through interacting with their "mother" and learn through observing what she does and how she interacts with others. Bowlby wrote extensively on attachment as a result of society's experiences during and after World War II of thousands of small children separated from their mothers. In England children were sent to the country for safety from the Nazi bombings of cities. And, after the war throughout Europe, the tens of thousands of children who had been either orphaned or separated from their families through the chaos of war presented unique difficulties.

This article on Attachment has continued to improve, but has been complicated by the fact that many in the field have tried to limit the concept of attachment to psychology instead of including the interdisciplinary knowledge from ethology and infant brain development that Bowlby considered essential to the understanding of attachment. He understood and incorporated the concepts of feedback and homeostasis from natural systems theory. And also, for example, he insisted on using the term "mother" recognizing the uniqueness of the relationship in the depth of commitment of caring for a child's long-term well-being as differentiated from generalized care-giving. He was not afraid of the emotional content of the word. I am Margaret9mary. (talk) 23:15, 31 July 2014 (UTC)

Distinguish hatnote?

Seems like something that might've been discussed in the past, but what about a distinguish hatnote: not to be confused with attachment therapy (with optional, brief description)? --— Rhododendrites talk \\ 17:31, 27 October 2014 (UTC)

Bowlby references ambiguous

There are numerous references in this article to "Bowlby (1969) 2nd ed." I am not sure if this is an unknown 2nd edition published in 1969 (unlikely) or the version published in 1982 or 1983. (Since this is in the reference list, I think this is most likely.) It would be good to update these references with both a link, and a proper date. However, I am reluctant to do this without having the text in front of me to confirm that is the edition being referred, and the date it was published (online sources don't agree). — Preceding unsigned comment added by Sondra.kinsey (talkcontribs) 19:24, 8 December 2015 (UTC)