Monday, July 21, 2008
I finally finished reading this long-held, long-loved book! It has accompanied me on many excursions and most recently to Alligator Point. So it looks well-worn with remnants of beach still securely held in the binding. And speaking of “securely,” I’ll list from the appendix a brief [and simplistic] example of what the three main attachments look like. (I tried discussing this at the pool with Billy and Priscilla which was a little more difficult, so I’ll rely on the writer’s own words…)
Securely Attached: Mother (or primary caregiver) is warm, sensitively attuned, consistent. Quickly responds to baby’s cries. Baby readily explores, using mother as secure base. Cries least of three groups, most compliant with mother, and most easily put down after being held.
Avoidantly Attached: Mother is often emotionally unavailable or rejecting. Dislikes “neediness,” may applaud independence. By end of first year, baby seeks little physical contact with mother, randomly angry with her, unresponsive to being held, but often upset when put down.
Ambivalently Attached: Mother is unpredictable or chaotic. Often attentive but out of synch with baby. Most tuned in to baby’s fear. Baby cries a lot, is clingy and demanding, often angry, upset by small separations, chronically anxious in relation to mother, limited in exploration.
Robert Karen does quite an engaging job of mapping out the history of attachment theory and all the major players and relationships in its development. I am always interested in hearing the unbecoming drama that can happen in academic circles, particularly among psychoanalysts. I wish I could offer a more detailed look into this book, but right now Dan is making waffles in the kitchen and I can tell he’s trying to keep the grasping birdlings at bay.
Why is the question of attachment a pertinent one? Speaking of Bowlby’s, Levy’s, Goldfarb’s, Senn’s, Spitz’s, and Bawkin’s work, “they unanimously found the same symptoms in children who had been deprived of their mothers—the superficial relationships, the poverty of feeling for others, the inaccessibility, the lack of emotional response, the often pointless deceitfulness and theft, and the inability to concentrate in school” (60). I think it’s important to consider that deprivation does not have to just be of a physical nature…
I’ll leave you with a quote from the last chapter of the book, “His [John Bowlby] monumental efforts at theory building were thus mainly in the service of social change. He hoped that the lasting value of attachment theory would “be the light it throws on the conditions most likely to promote healthy personality development. Only when those conditions are clear beyond doubt will parents know what is best for their children and will communities be willing to help them provide it” (440).
If you are interested in reading this book, I’d let you borrow mine, but Dan has called dibs on it, so you’ll have to talk to him.