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(p. vii) Introduction 

(p. vii) Introduction

Robbie Duschinsky

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date: 29 September 2020

Attachment theory is among the most popular theories of human socioemotional development, with a global research community and widespread interest from clinicians, child welfare professionals, educationalists, and parents. It has been considered ‘one of the most generative contemporary ideas’ about family life in modern society.1 It is one of the last of the grand theories of human development that still retains an active research tradition. Indeed, Simpson and Howland have observed that ‘perhaps no single theory in the psychological sciences has generated more empirical research during the past 30 years than attachment theory’.2 Attachment theory and research speak to fundamental questions about human emotions, relationships, and development. They do so in terms that feel experience-near, with a remarkable combination of intuitive ideas and counter-intuitive assessments and conclusions. Over time, attachment theory seems to have become more, rather than less, appealing and popular, in part perhaps due to alignment with current concern with the lifetime implications of early brain development.3 Emerging reports on the economic costs of insecure attachment may make a further contribution to this appeal over the coming years.4 In a 2018 survey conducted by the British government of organizations working with children in need of help and protection, attachment theory was, by a large margin, cited as the most frequently used underpinning perspective.5 Attachment ideas have been used to support (p. viii) recognition of the importance of stable, trusting relationships for children’s socioemotional development, with the credibility of links to an established empirical research paradigm.6 Attachment also provides a framework for interpreting the underlying logic or meaning of the behaviour of children and young people following relational adversities.7 These qualities have contributed to the popularity of attachment among social workers,8 clinicians,9 and health visitors,10 in training and support provided to foster carers and adoptive parents,11 in parenting education courses and materials given to parents by health and care professionals,12 in forensic contexts,13 and in professional development courses for teachers.14

Yet the most well-known account of attachment is in many regards based on certain early claims by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, the originators of attachment theory, at the expense of their own and others’ later conclusions and qualifications. Ainsworth herself complained of a tendency to describe psychological theories in terms of early findings and ideas; these enter into circulation, ricochet and rebound among domains of practice, and get repeated and repeated. Later developments, even important ones, become difficult to access (p. ix) and incorporate, with textbooks and summaries sustaining an outdated caricature.15 Already in 1968, Ainsworth wrote to Bowlby with concern: ‘attachment has become a bandwagon’.16

In the helping professions, the idea of attachment theory is well known, and even forms part of the mandatory curriculum for some professions. At the same time, knowledge of developments in attachment theory and research may not be strong. Qualitative research by Furnivall and colleagues found that ‘there was a sense that professionals knew the word but not the underlying theory … although there was strong support for the importance of the fundamental concept’.17 Likewise Morison and colleagues found that staff working in residential childcare generally stated in interview that their practice was informed by attachment theory, but struggled to say exactly how.18 Bennett and Blome have observed that welfare agencies give lip-service to attachment in providing a support for the credibility of their work, but may provide a protocol-focused organizational culture that ultimately discourages practitioners from gaining expertise regarding attachment research and its implications.19

Elizabeth Meins, one of the UK’s leading attachment researchers through the 1990s and 2000s, has recently turned her back on the paradigm. She has argued that regardless of the scientific advances made by attachment research, the benefits arising from these have been outstripped by the problems caused by public misunderstandings. Meins’ position is unusual. However, it sets out clearly the stakes in the gap between attachment research today and how it is widely understood:

Somewhere along the line, the idea that early attachment is the best predictor of all aspects of later development has gained credence. We need to get out of our ivory towers and unite in calling out this caricature of our research. I stand by my claim that laying so much emphasis on attachment isn’t helpful. Being made to worry about whether you have a secure attachment with your baby won’t make you a better parent; healthcare professionals who are provided with oversimplified hype about the predictive power of attachment won’t give families good advice; and letting non-experts who think they know the attachment literature loose in the political arena won’t result in good policies for children and families.20

(p. x) Meins’ remarks suggest the value in taking stock of qualifications, innovations, and amendments made by later researchers in relation to Bowlby’s early claims. One important early attempt at such taking stock was Becoming Attached by Robert Karen, published in 1994.21 Karen described the emergence of the attachment paradigm in the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth, and its subsequent elaboration by younger researchers such as Sroufe, Main, and Shaver. Karen interviewed all these researchers, as well as conducting extensive study of their published works until 1992. He documented how attachment theory was introduced by John Bowlby in the 1950s and 1960s. He traced how Bowlby sought to revise psychoanalytic theory in order to create a scientific model that nonetheless retained the strengths of psychoanalysis in relevance to clinical work. The theory was not well received at the time by the psychoanalytic community. However, Karen showed, through the work of Mary Ainsworth, how attachment theory entered into American developmental psychology, where it took firm root, first among Ainsworth’s immediate collaborators and then across the subdiscipline. Central to the establishment of attachment theory within developmental psychology, in Karen’s account, was Ainsworth’s introduction of the Strange Situation procedure, an observational assessment of infant–caregiver attachment relationships using separations and reunions to examine infants’ expectations about their caregiver. Ainsworth found that infants’ behaviour in the Strange Situation was associated with observations of the care they received at home. Infants who could confidently explore in the Strange Situation and retreat to their caregiver for comfort when distressed were those whose caregiver had been attentive and responsive to their signals over the first year of life. Ainsworth therefore termed this pattern of behaviour ‘secure attachment’.

Karen also documented how longitudinal studies by Ainsworth’s collaborators and students had shown the value of attachment theory as an approach within developmental psychology, and validated the Strange Situation as a predictive measure. Ainsworth’s student Mary Main demonstrated that patterns of behaviour towards each parent in the Strange Situation are largely independent, confirming Ainsworth’s interpretation that the behaviours were less individual traits than reflections of infant expectations about particular relationships. Qualities from autobiographical interviews with parents were also found to have predictable associations with their children’s behaviour in the Strange Situation. This formed the basis of the introduction of the Adult Attachment Interview. Karen also explored the findings of the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation, led by Alan Sroufe and Byron Egeland. These researchers followed up a large high-risk sample since the 1970s. This longitudinal study has been of particular importance in both supporting and qualifying claims by Bowlby, Ainsworth, and Main about the developmental implications of attachment. Karen also reported another key development: the growth of research on attachment within social psychology, initiated by Phillip Shaver and colleagues, and drawing on self-report assessments of adult attachment.

Karen’s book came out at an important moment for attachment research. Bowlby and Ainsworth were no longer available to act as leaders. Main’s methodological innovations had been introduced but were still in the process of being validated in other laboratories. Karen (p. xi) could discuss the Minnesota group’s follow-up of their sample from infancy to preschool, but the data from later childhood were still being analysed. And Shaver and colleagues had introduced their early ‘love quiz’ self-report measure of adult attachment, but the properties of this assessment were subject to significant criticism. The relationship between the developmental psychologists and the social psychologists was relatively hostile, and it was wholly unclear how the ideas and measures of the two traditions would relate to one another. Yet alongside sorrow at the loss of Bowlby and Ainsworth, and tensions over the future direction of attachment research and theory, it was a time of great excitement for the field. The standing of attachment research as a scientific paradigm had been established by the 1980s, and support from research funders had led to a rapid growth in the size of the field by the mid-1990s.22

Since Karen’s book, there has been substantial academic scholarship exploring the early years of attachment research from a historical perspective. Inge Bretherton, a student and colleague of Ainsworth, and Jeremy Holmes, a clinician and colleague of Bowlby, also published influential celebratory reviews in the early 1990s.23 Work to document the emergence of Bowlby and Ainsworth’s research by academic historians began in the late 1990s, and remains thriving today.24 There has also been a rich tradition of critical discussion of the relationship between Bowlby’s ideas and post-war gender and parenting cultures.25 However, the important developments in the field of the past 30 years have not been examined by historians, a startling gap in light of the revolutions in theory and method that have taken place in these decades. Peter Fonagy and Chloe Campbell, significant figures in the British attachment research community, have criticised historians of attachment research for focusing too exclusively on Bowlby and Ainsworth, neglecting attention to the ways in which the paradigm has changed over time.26 These changes are also of great interest for the history of science, illustrating dynamics in the relationship between theory and method in psychological science, debates about the function of categorization, problems in the conceptualization of emotional development, changing appeals to evolutionary theory and ontologies of human nature, and shifts in the relationship between developmental science and its publics. The images of attachment research offered by commentators outside the field are generally outdated, hackneyed, and too often inaccurate.27 This loses critical psychology access (p. xii) to an influential and superbly rich case—one relevant to major current concerns such as the history of emotion in the human sciences, debates about psychological categorisation, and ways of imagining human relationships. In turn, attachment research loses effective critical interlocutors.

This book

Cornerstones re-examines the background and current approaches of key laboratories that have contributed to attachment research as it exists today. In this way the book traces the development in a single scientific paradigm through parallel albeit separate lines of inquiry. The laboratories in focus, those examined by Karen, exemplify particular advances and dilemmas the field has faced. Cornerstones seeks to use a focus on five research groups as a lens on wider themes and challenges faced by the contemporary field as it has emerged. In doing so, the book uses certain landmarks that suggest some of the fundamental logic, infrastructure, and points of orientation in attachment research as a terrain.

The book in no way aims to be a comprehensive account of attachment research.28 This scholarship is diverse. It does not form a single totality, but rather a region with points of density and intensity. Both the density and intensity of work within attachment research are structured by research groups, which are shaped by and shape the field. Chapters aim to remain with researchers long enough to offer a sense of their characteristic ways of thinking and tone, to feel them as figures keeping us company—if sometimes quarrelling, sometimes pulling in unison—within the broader history of developments in the field. Readers will note that the book does not contain chapters focusing on the research groups of influential direct students of Ainsworth such as Jude Cassidy, Patricia Crittenden, Roger Kobak, and Bob Marvin, and other research leaders such as Kim Bartholomew, Jay Belsky, Martha Cox, Peter Fonagy, Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Avi Sagi-Schwartz, Sue Spieker, and Marinus van IJzendoorn. A younger cohort of research leaders would also need to be considered in a characterization of contemporary research groups, including—but by no means limited to—Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg, Gurit Birnbaum, Mary Dozier, Robin Edelstein, Pasco Fearon, Chris Fraley, Patrick Luyten, Sheri Madigan, Carlo Schuengel, Jeff Simpson, Gottfried Spangler, and Glenn Roisman. All these figures will feature in the present book, however. And a further book is already underway to examine key research groups that gained prominence only after Karen’s Becoming Attached. This will include attention to major preoccupations of the 1990s and 2000s, such as studies of attachment and the developing brain.

The concept of a ‘generation’ can be used pragmatically to characterise members of a cohort who, facilitated by structural factors that suggest commonalities, regard themselves as facing a bundle of common challenges, including delimitation and appraisal of the legacy of an earlier generation.29 In an important sense, just as Karen was writing at a point of (p. xiii) transition from the first to the second generation of attachment researchers, this book has been written during a transition from the second to the third generation of attachment researchers. The leaders of the research groups considered in this book have, with the exception of Mikulincer, now retired.30 Consideration of their work is intended to offer an opportunity to examine the strengths and the limitations, and clarify some of the debates, that have characterized the second generation of attachment researchers and which have formed the context in which a new generation of leaders are inheriting the field of attachment research. In a letter to Mary Main, Bowlby wrote that ‘there is no need for the old to learn from the young in order for the population to benefit from youthful innovation. The supersession of an older generation by a younger is sufficient.’31 Now it is Main’s own generation who are putting down their tools, and a new set of research leaders who must take stock of what they have learned, and of what hold this learning has on them.

There are several excellent books that have taken a thematic approach in offering the reader a guide and introduction to contemporary attachment research, most notably the Handbook of Attachment edited by Cassidy and Shaver, Understanding Attachment and Attachment Disorders by Prior and Glaser, and Adult Attachment by Gillath, Karantzas, and Fraley.32 Thompson, Simpson, and Berlin’s Attachment: The Fundamental Questions also will offer a systematic stock-taking of the present state of attachment research when it is published next year.33 However, a thematic approach to synthesis can risk making an area of research appear seamless and without edges. In particular, it can lose track of the social dynamics, debates, and diverging use of the same terminology that organize a field of inquiry and the relationships between research groups. Thompson has argued that this heterogeneity must be captured by any attempt to understand attachment research today, even if it makes for a more intricate story.34 The chapters of Cornerstones draw on a complete analysis of published scholarly and popular works by each research group, as well as unpublished doctoral theses published in English where these were available through inter-library loan.

This signals an important limitation. Much of the imagination, passion, and artistry of research, much of its process and messy creation out of different elements, much of its influence by and influence on social interactions, is hidden in textual records, especially those that go into print.35 Many of the most vital social dynamics of the field of attachment research do not feature in the textual record. For instance, the available texts offer little vantage on interactions between attachment researchers and clinical and social welfare professionals. (p. xiv) Some commentators have described attachment theory and research as little more than an ideology for the coercive evaluation, classification, and discipline of families by professionals.36 In response to such accusations, apologists have countered that attachment theory and research are no different than any other form of knowledge of children and families, and that contemporary attachment research, adequately understood, offers no support for oppression of families.37 Both claims are likely too flat, masking the diversity within attachment discourses and their changes over time and between contexts. Neither the accusations nor the apologetics are based on empirical research, or on textual evidence. In fact, very little is readily available in the public domain about the circulation of ideas between research and practice.38 Colleagues and I currently have research on these questions underway, drawing on interviews, focus groups, ethnography, and analysis of a large archive of clinical case records.39

Yet even if subject to systematic and important limitations, the written record available for a study of important research groups in the history of attachment is extensive. And I have been grateful to have access to some texts in this area beyond the published record. Chapters draw extensively on materials from the John Bowlby Archive at the Wellcome Collection, the Mary Ainsworth Archive at the Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, and the Mary Main and Erik Hesse personal archive (currently being catalogued for the Wellcome Collection).40 These archives provide access to a treasure trove of unpublished lectures and seminars, correspondence, notes, and speculations, and drafts of published works and coding manuals. For Bowlby, I have been able to access the surviving part of his library at Human Development Scotland (the location of the rest of the Bowlby library is unknown, even to his family!). This has permitted study of relevant marginalia—for instance the annotations on his personal copy of the works of Freud. Mary Main and Erik Hesse have also made available the manuscripts of two major unpublished books from 1986 and 1995, describing the methods and ideas of their Berkeley group. Use of unpublished materials, such as correspondence, has helped this book attend to the lines of continuity and discontinuity over time and between research groups.

For readers less familiar with attachment research, it is hoped that Cornerstones can provide a thorough introduction to theories and methods that form the basis for contemporary (p. xv) attachment research. Attention to a number of research groups offers an ‘arsenal of exemplars’ for how key questions have been approached, as well as clarifying the stakes in debates between researchers and clarifying the meaning of terminology.41 At the same time, for readers more familiar with attachment research, the book seeks to surprise and defamiliarize. Historical inquiry offers a point of access for considering how an area of scientific practice decides its objects, priorities, and tools, and in doing so can provide a way of refreshing a reader’s perspective on the present and its concerns.42 The interested reader is also advised to review the book’s detailed footnotes, many of which explore some of the peculiar catacombs and other structures underneath the more well-known landscapes of attachment research.

Attachment and historical time

Cornerstones is oriented by the perception that, despite their very substantial differences, historical research and attachment research have points of overlap in how they regard time.43 Several attachment researchers have, in fact, offered substantial—if scattered—commentary on the idea of history, informed by reading in the history and philosophy of science. From early in his career, Bowlby was wholly convinced of the importance of patients’ history for making sense of their trajectory through life, including the capacity of the past to shape or influence behaviours without the awareness of the individual themselves. As a clinician, history taking was second nature to him.44 Beyond this, however, Bowlby was an avid, lifelong reader of social and political history in his spare time. He had a strong belief in the value of slow, in-depth historical research, which reached its culmination in his decision to dedicate his final years to a grand study of the life of Charles Darwin.45 In Bowlby’s time, historians of science tended to shy away from evaluating the ideas of an earlier scientist in light of later developments. This practice was motivated by an effort to truly understand scientific practices in their own context.46 Bowlby was impatient with this view. Reflecting on his reading of philosophers of science such as Kuhn, Lakatos, and Popper, he had a different image of historical analysis.47 His book on Darwin treats it as obvious that later scientific developments can help historians understanding what an earlier scientist was attempting to feel out and explore, the constraints they faced, and limitations or tensions within their understanding and terminology.

(p. xvi) In the Darwin biography, unpublished materials are treated as different but not necessarily inferior sources of information. Both are asked to play their part in filling out the development of ideas and scientific practices over time. Bowlby felt that history can, and at times should, help ‘exhume’ the ‘archaeological remnant’ of ideas that have been lost or thrust into the background over time.48 He warned that ‘so long as our history is hidden from us, so long as we hide our history from ourselves, we are very likely to see the present and future in the terms of the past’.49 In his view, the history of a research paradigm holds open the possibility of greater critical awareness of its ideas and methods, including a sense of what avenues have been or might be more or less fruitful. This can contribute to greater flexibility and freedom of action in facing contemporary dilemmas. Another potential benefit of historical inquiry, Bowlby held, is that such research can directly contribute to ‘the formulation of specific hypotheses and theories’, even if this is not its primary purpose.50

Bowlby emphasized the ‘appalling complexity’ of history, whether this is the history of societies, persons, or ideas, since it has to capture ‘highly specific interacting events’.51 Scientific research is partly shaped by the phenomena under investigation. However, Bowlby stated that historians of science, and their emphasis on the social relationships and cultural contexts that underpin research, have had a ‘profound influence on my whole conception of what science is and how scientists operate’.52 In finding a path through this complexity, Bowlby urged that the historian’s priority must be on attempting to discern what problems a scientist or a group of scientists were trying to solve.53 If close attention is paid to the problems that were faced in a particular period, comparison between earlier and later developments need not result in anachronism. Cautions are required when pursuing such a project. We should take care not to collapse the problems faced by different periods and how those problems were understood; we must not assume that words always meant the same thing over time; and we must not assume that later developments were inevitable or necessarily the best path that could have been taken. Nonetheless, Bowlby’s book on Darwin strongly evidences a perspective which has gained ground in recent years within the history of science: that earlier and later scientific developments shed light on one another when examined together.54

Yet, more than this, Bowlby wondered ‘whether something living which has developed historically can ever be restructured without reference to its historical origins as a social institution’.55 As such, in Bowlby’s view, historical awareness may not just be helpful but actually may be a necessary ingredient for the continued vitality of an area of research. This (p. xvii) argument would also be put forward some years later by both historians and developmental psychologists who would describe the use of historical methodology in the critical examination of psychological paradigms as a ‘necessary supplement’ to the hypothesis-testing tradition of academic psychological research.56

Alan Sroufe and the Minnesota group also offered reflections on what it means to know the past, as part of a deep and abiding concern with the nature of continuities and discontinuities in development over time.57 Like Bowlby, Sroufe was respectful of history and felt that ‘it is important to bring forward the lessons of the past and at the same time redraw them with an eye on current problems and current understanding’.58 For Sroufe, the essential commonality between history and developmental psychology lies in the fact that both acknowledge that early events do not determine later ones. Early events shape what is taken forward from the past in ways that then frame subsequent interactions between individuals, groups, or societies and their wider environments. In this account, the past is not used up but continues to inflect the present, perhaps resourcing and supporting, perhaps depleting or obstructing what is now possible: ‘the emerging complexity is not specified by prior features, yet it is founded on them’.59 Furthermore, in Sroufe’s interpretation of the concept of ‘development’, the present is not the sum of the past. There may well be ways in which earlier forms possessed strengths for particular purposes that have not been passed on to later forms. There remains the potential, in Sroufe’s words, for ‘lessons from the past’.60

Historical entities like attachment research and the structure of a personality can be imagined as a maze of little streets and squares, with houses from various periods nonetheless situated by earlier structures. It is these structures, which continue to both constrain and enable what is built today, that come into view when science or a human personality is considered in historical terms. Both history and developmental science are oriented by an amazing and strange aspect of the human condition: our pasts are both discontinuous with our present and, disconcertingly, still with us. The two disciplines agree that we make our homes on top of and within the standing structures or ruins of our pasts: ‘though we may be done with the past, the past is by no means done with us’.61 This perspective on the past suggests a changed attitude to bereavement, to the extent that aspects of the past remain with (p. xviii) us. Bowlby held that we can even retain the dead as secure attachment figures at a symbolic/representational level, if we can accept the loss whilst taking courage and reassurance from memories and other aspects of the person’s legacy.62

Both history and developmental science agree that the past shapes what we can build, where, and with what stability. Both disciplines recognize that important aspects of our lives are often best regarded as by-products of the past, rather than immediately functional and well judged in the present. Yet both perceive that this by-product can be used or adapted responsively, that contingency is material and runs deep. In making sense of such contingency, history and developmental science have significant respective commitments that emphasize the social basis of the self, and the effects of this for the knowing subject. As such, Sroufe and colleagues expressed concern that when the legacy of the past is ‘unnoticed, disallowed, unacknowledged or forgotten’, present-day social practices will likely not be responsive, well judged, or especially resilient to challenges.63

In agreement with Bowlby’s image of history, Cornerstones takes a stance in proactively evaluating aspects of attachment as a research paradigm. Particular attention is paid to aspects of the history of attachment research that have structured or shaped the present, especially those that have become taken-for-granted over time. Ideas are considered for their cogency, terminology for its clarity, and empirical claims are appraised against the available evidence. Appeals by researchers to earlier or contemporary theory or research for authority or support are evaluated both for the accuracy of the commentary and for the function the citation appears designed to serve. This includes analysis of the ways in which interpretations of Bowlby and Ainsworth have served as sites for alignment or struggle between later researchers. Each chapter identifies the strengths and particular insights associated with the work of the research group under discussion, and changes that have occurred over time in methodology and theory, and a section at the close of each chapter considers some potential limitations.

Much of what goes on within a research group occurs behind the scenes. Where the textual record makes this possible, which is not in every case, the biographical contributories to the research priorities of principal investigators are identified in the introduction to each chapter. However, science is a collective work and has a collective legacy. So chapters attempt to consider the perspectives and efforts of the principal investigators within the context of their work with collaborators and as embedded within a wider context. Each chapter seeks to identify the opportunities, debates, and challenges faced by the field of attachment research, and how these were shaped by and shaped the priorities and concerns of particular research groups, leading to the making and remaking of methodology, knowledge, and authority over time. Chapters are intended to be readable as standalones; none necessarily requires knowledge of the others. However, the cumulative work of the book as a whole will permit comparison and evaluation of the positions of different research groups when confronted with related concerns. The book as a whole is also intended to facilitate translation, since differences in method or terminology have often obscured the relationship between the claims of different groups of researchers.

(p. xix) One of the primary forms of attachment-based intervention with families is video-feedback. Researchers found that showing caregivers exemplars of ‘ideal’ parenting on film was counterproductive. It did not serve as a useful model, and instead lowered the feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy of caregivers. However, for a friendly individual to show caregivers a film of their own behaviour with their child, and watch together, noticing interactions in the film and what stemmed from these moments, had a different effect. This technique has been repeatedly found to have a meaningful effect on adults’ caregiving behaviour (Chapter 6).64 Cornerstones is written with the analogous hope that looking together at the recent past, with joint attention to how things occurred and what then ensued, may form a basis for clarifying how things stand and whether there might be other ways of acting in the present and future. This will likely not always be comfortable reading for attachment researchers. At the same time, Cornerstones is written with affection for the field and its genuine insights into the strange, drunk-dialling human heart.65

Both attachment research and its reception have had enough polemics already. Yet achieving measured and sincere evaluation is a complex task. There are structural pressures on historians of science and social historians to take a flatly critical stance towards scientific claims about family life, treating this as an inappropriate incursion of science as ideology. As Latour and Bourdieu have observed, the conditions of academic production, which separate critics in a variety of ways from the practices they are describing, obscure internal differences in the object of study and may contribute to a wish to ‘debunk’ the scientific work.66 There has indeed been a tendency in history and sociology to adopt a stance in which psychological knowledge is regarded as a vast smooth power, without artistry or contingency in its formation.67 Nonetheless, this tendency for the external observer to be somewhat heedless of the demands practice makes on insiders may, in certain regards, be part of what history has to offer. For instance, Cornerstones closely examines matters—for instance the items of scales for measuring attachment—that researchers themselves have generally simply taken for granted as workable for practical purposes at a local level. Yet judgements about what is workable by individual researchers can have huge cumulative unintended consequences as the years go by. Part of the specific relevance of historical analysis for research psychology is in the identification and description of such consequences.68

Ainsworth highlighted that empirical research always entails compromises. In her view, heterogeneity among research groups can be to the benefit of psychological science as a whole, since the compromises may well be in different places.69 Similarly, reflecting on the (p. xx) nature of psychological theory, Sroufe has argued that ‘embracing a particular model of disturbance is analogous to putting on lenses which may bring some issues or questions into focus while distorting others in ways that may not be obvious to the observer’.70 As suggested by Ainsworth and Sroufe’s reflections, though all contributing to the study of attachment in some sense, the research groups considered in Cornerstones have varied strengths and primary concerns. Treating them together, and with attention to their commentary on and elaborations of one another, helps reveal these differences and their wider stakes.71 It also helps in understanding the priorities, methodological choices, and terminology of each group, which at all times were, in part, structured toward those communicated by or anticipated from other research groups as well as the wider discipline. Essentially, Cornerstones aims to acknowledge and understand the point of view of particular researchers and research groups, without assuming that this point of view is the only or best one available in the field, even on their own original ideas and results.72

Ordinary and scientific language

One of the recurrent themes of this book is the way in which communication between research groups, and communication with wider publics, has been hindered by confusion about the meaning of concepts. Part of the appeal of attachment research lies in its central reference to experience-near metaphors and terms such as ‘attachment’, ‘mother’, ‘security’, ‘sensitivity’, ‘disorganization’, ‘coherence’, ‘anxiety’, ‘dissociation’, and ‘trauma’. Yet, equally, part of the difficulty with understanding attachment research is that not one of these terms is used by attachment researchers in line with ordinary language, and rarely with the same meaning between research groups.

It is not unusual for terms to take on a life of their own in shaping human perceptions and actions, both in scientific and ordinary language, a life in turn conditioned by the structures and conditions within which the language occurs.73 The independent life of language has been an especially common issue for psychological discourse, as previous historians have observed.74 The researchers discussed in this book from Bowlby onwards have themselves been aware of this issue. For instance, Shaver and Brennan have observed that in ordinary language ‘depression’ can encompass alienation, low self-esteem, helplessness, and dissatisfaction with life. However, psychological researchers may well want to distinguish these states, and investigate their respective contribution to clinical symptoms.75 Ordinary use of (p. xxi) the word ‘depression’ thus diverges from the clinical use of the term—and perhaps both in turn diverge from the term as used in research contexts. Shaver and colleagues have argued that the issue expresses the broader predicament of academic and clinical psychology, which attempt to characterize and support change within the sphere of human everyday life, and therefore begin with the terms and problems of everyday language.76 And just like everyday life, ordinary language is unruly, multiply invested, and occasionally nutty or treacherous.

However, even if potential confusions with ordinary language is a broader problem for psychology, attachment research has been unusually vulnerable from the start. It is helpful to see that Bowlby was pulled in two directions.77 On the one hand, he was keen to make use of the advantages of ordinary language. Ordinary language is excellent for doing less precise work, for making evocative claims, and for communicating with diverse audiences in ways that resonate with everyday concerns.78 It is intrinsically historical and pitted with depth, a reserve of images and connotations. Bowlby wanted to communicate simply and evocatively, making ideas available to a wide public and clinical audiences. He held no tenured academic post, and especially in the 1950s and 1960s, was intent on speaking beyond the academic community to support changes in policy and the lives of children and families. Bowlby also appreciated the flexibility of ordinary language, and the advantages that this could bring to science. He felt that it can be beneficial in the context of working out ideas, to draw on ordinary language without strict definitions ‘for, once a definition is laid down, it tends to straitjacket thought and to control what the worker permits himself to observe’.79

However, there is also a danger in reliance on ordinary language, which Bowlby came to recognize increasingly over the span of his long career. Use of everyday terms, rich in existing connotations, ‘makes it extremely difficult to tie any specialised meaning to any particular word’.80 Above all, the connotations of a term from ordinary language can inadvertently accompany the word into scientific language. And no amount of scrubbing and qualifying will ever fully hold back these connotations from influencing discussions between scientists, let alone attempts by scientists to communicate with their publics.81 In a chapter drafted for his final book, Bowlby expressed regret that Darwin’s intellectual legacy has been damaged by assuming the ordinary language connotations of terms that he in fact used in a technical sense: ‘it has been unfortunate that in his own expositions of his scientific procedures, Darwin uses words and phrases that have misled readers and have resulted in misconceived criticism.’ For instance, ‘where we would say we built an explanatory model, Darwin refers to (p. xxii) himself as ‘speculating’, giving the false impression that he lacked rigour or reason as he put forward an explanation.82

The most basic example of such problems can be seen with the term ‘attachment’ itself, which Benjafield situates as one of the most characteristic examples of linguistic polysemy in all the history of psychology.83 There is a gulf between the ordinary connotations of the term and how it is used by attachment researchers. And there is a further gap between narrower and broader uses of the term by Bowlby, and then by subsequent attachment researchers. In ordinary language, the word means to bind something to something else, physically or emotionally. In Bowlby’s narrower usage, the word meant a specific set of behaviours and states that facilitate care-seeking. In Bowlby’s broader usage, the word meant all and any intimate relationships. Such multiple investments in the term have had a powerful legacy. They have contributed to the intuitive appeal of attachment theory, making it seem user-friendly to diverse publics. And it has contributed to ceaseless miscommunication by and among researchers. ‘Attachment’ is a fuzzy term, in both the sweet and worst senses. By the 1980s Bowlby admitted ruefully in correspondence that he kept using the word to describe children’s care-seeking behaviours ‘for purely historical reasons’.84 This was despite the fact that it necessitated work, time and again, to clarify the distinction between the technical usage and the various connotations of the term, including adjudication between his own earlier multiple uses.

One of the leaders of the second generation of attachment research, Everett Waters, acknowledged that attachment theory is worse than most areas of psychology for muddling ordinary and technical scientific language. In Waters’ view, scientists do and likely should use ordinary language regularly, calling on common metaphors and ideas in order to communicate technical notions. This can be a generative process, contributing helpfully to new theoretical and methodological developments, as well as the circulation of forms of knowledge.85 However, Waters has argued, when scientific and ordinary language are mistaken for one another, the results can be problematic ways that are difficult to notice and redress:

In psychology, and more so, attachment theory, the words we use to label ideas often get in the way. They misdirect us in what we think we should do next. Many implications that people draw from their knowledge of attachment theory are probably not rigorously derived from the logic of the underlying theory. Take this example: you ask a college class, what kinds of developmental problems might arise from being insecure in your attachment to your mother? They start thinking that insecure sounds like afraid, fearful, anxious, shy, uncomfortable, maybe incompetent, and the reasoning goes on to a conclusion that (p. xxiii) insecure is therefore a bad thing. This is not being deduced from some mechanism that is spelled out in attachment theory. It is merely associative.86

Unless we can be sure that others know just what we mean by ‘attachment’, Waters argued, severe cautions are needed. In fact, ‘the less often we use the word “attachment” in this discussion, and the more often we refer specifically to what you are asking about, the better off we’ll all be’.87 However, Waters’ warning has gone generally unheeded. Attachment research has had comparatively strong platforms for reporting and synthesizing empirical findings but weak platforms for the critical discussion of concepts and terminology—besides, to an extent, the journal Attachment & Human Development and the Handbook of Attachment.88

Luyten has argued that ‘much of the language of … attachment theory may have had its time. There is an unmistakable tendency to reify.’89 Yet any attempt to replace or bypass unclear terminology related to attachment will be difficult, perhaps even counter-productive, unless the various meanings of concepts within the scientific community are understood. There can be a variety of ways of discerning such meanings, including interviews, focus groups, and Q-sort tasks.90 However, historical analysis of written material has particular advantages for tracing lines of continuity and discontinuity in the uses of terms. The five research groups considered in this book are cornerstones in the development of the research paradigm as it exists today, and have in many regards set the terms of discussion. They are also, perhaps with the exception of the Minnesota group, the prime originators of the most serious confusions in the use of attachment language. As a result, historical study of the contributions of these research groups and the debates between them offers both an introduction to and a clarification of the central concepts and terminology of attachment research.

Summary of chapters

Chapter 1 focuses on the work of John Bowlby. It describes the lines of agreement and disagreement between Bowlby and the psychoanalytic theory of his day, and the extent of his debt to Robert Hinde and ethology. The chapter clarifies ways in which incompatibilities between psychoanalysis and ethology have contributed to tensions within Bowlby’s work and subsequent attachment theory. Access to Bowlby’s unpublished correspondence and notes provides the basis for a new interpretation of several of Bowlby’s key concepts, including (p. xxiv) monotropy and aggression. The chapter discusses Bowlby’s unpublished book written with Jimmy Robertson in the 1950s and 1960s on the effects of major separations experienced by young children. And the chapter presents previously unavailable ideas from Bowlby’s unpublished book on defence mechanisms from the 1960s, which sheds light on his later information processing model. The chapter also pieces together the full story of Bowlby’s work with a patient, Mrs Q., the account of which is scattered across a dozen of Bowlby’s writings. The chapter closes by discussing some ways in which limitations in Bowlby’s work have proven obstacles for later attachment researchers.

Though the terms ‘attachment theory’ and ‘attachment research’ are sometimes used interchangeably, attachment as an empirical research paradigm may be regarded as having fully commenced only with Ainsworth’s work. Chapter 2 begins by introducing the biographical context of Ainsworth’s work, including her early work at Toronto University. Ainsworth’s concept of ‘security’ and her attempt to develop self-report measures of security are reappraised, placing Ainsworth’s work in the context of her debt to her teacher Blatz. The chapter then draws on Ainsworth’s published and unpublished writings to consider the strengths and limitations of her Uganda ethnography and Baltimore longitudinal study. This helps clarify Ainsworth’s goals in her development of a scale to measure sensitivity and in developing the Strange Situation procedure. A central concern of the chapter is close examination of the theoretical commitments contained in Ainsworth’s choices in the design of her coding protocols, including the justifications she provided for characterizing individual differences in infant attachment as three categories, and how she handled discrepancies. The chapter also considers the work of Ainsworth’s collaborator and student Everett Waters. Waters played a critical role in the validation of Ainsworth’s measure, and stimulated an influential debate about the stability of attachment over time. However, he also acknowledged the limitations of the Strange Situation procedure, and developed other measures for assessing attachment in childhood and adulthood based on Ainsworth’s ideas. In addition, the chapter addresses other concerns that have been raised regarding Ainsworth’s work, including the extent of its cross-cultural validity.

Chapter 3 explores the contributions of Mary Main, Erik Hesse and the Berkeley longitudinal study. The Berkeley group generated the dominant approach to method and theory for the second generation of attachment research, and helped establish the priorities and values of the field over recent decades. Drawing on archival materials, the introduction offers a new interpretation of the development of Main’s work. This highlights the fundamental role she gave to attentional processes, and leads to a new account of how Main conceptualized minimizing and maximizing attachment strategies. Recognition of the centrality of attention to Main’s theory also helps makes sense of her introduction of the disorganized attachment classification and her development of the Adult Attachment Interview. The chapter draws on two unpublished books by Main to describe her methodological innovations, and how they were achieved, and also to clarify misunderstandings of her goals. This includes discussion of Main and colleagues’ use of the concepts of ‘disorganization’, ‘fear’, and ‘internal working model’, and how these related to earlier ideas by Bowlby and Hinde. A particular focus of the chapter is on the six-year systems for assessing attachment developed by Main and colleagues. Relatively little information about these coding systems is in print, and yet close consideration of these methods offers a powerful window into Main’s thinking about attachment and development, as well as into her more well-known assessments of infant and adult attachment. The chapter also draws on an examination of the development of the Adult Attachment Interview coding system from the 1980s to the 2000s to offer clarifications regarding Main and Hesse’s ideas regarding ‘lack of resolution’ of loss and trauma. The precise (p. xxv) relationship between trauma and dissociation in their thinking—which has often been confused by subsequent attachment researchers—is described, drawing on a major theoretical work by Main and Hesse published only in Italian.

Chapter 4 considers the work of Alan Sroufe, Byron Egeland, and the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation. The Minnesota group has served as a fundamental source of stability and support for the developmental tradition of attachment research. The chapter begins by describing the origins of the Minnesota study in the context of growing policy and academic interest in the consequences of child maltreatment. The chapter presents the first sustained commentary on Sroufe’s ideas about emotion, attachment, and development. These ideas were vital to the selection of measures and interpretation of results in the longitudinal study. Headline concepts like ‘felt security’ were influential for subsequent attachment theory. However, other ideas such as affects as social currency, and intrusive intimacy, are interesting but less well known. The chapter examines the antecedents and sequalae of attachment in the Minnesota study. It then considers the contribution made by the study of attachment at Minnesota to the emergence of developmental psychopathology as a movement within developmental science. This includes consideration of Sroufe, Egeland, and colleagues’ distinctive approach to conceptualizing risk and resilience. Two case studies from the Minnesota study are used to illustrate how the multiple, rich assessments conducted over decades offered the research group an encompassing picture of human lives. And the legacy of Sroufe and Egeland is discussed for two former students who have subsequently returned to take leadership roles at Minnesota: Dante Cicchetti and Glenn Roisman. The chapter also discusses ways in which Sroufe and Egeland’s theoretical commitment to holism has contributed to both strengths and limitations in their work.

Chapter 5 discusses Phillip Shaver, Mario Mikulincer and the Experiences in Close Relationships scale, the most widely used self-report measure of adult attachment. The chapter begins by revisiting Ainsworth’s reasons for abandoning self-report measures of security, and Shaver and Hazan’s reason for reigniting this approach. Shaver and Hazen’s development of the ‘love quiz’ and early work on adult attachment is discussed, considering ways in which their ideas converged and diverged from earlier attachment theory. The chapter then explores the creation of the Experiences in Close Relationships scale, which has provided a methodological and theoretical basis for the social psychological tradition of attachment research over subsequent decades. The chapter clarifies Shaver and Mikulincer’s approach to conceptualizing and measuring attachment, and secure base use, and minimizing and maximizing strategies. It is anticipated that this will help translation between the social psychological and developmental traditions of attachment research. The chapter also considers original contributions made by Shaver and Mikulincer and colleagues through their inquiries into the relationship of adult attachment styles with sexuality and with religious practices. The chapter closes with examination of the items of the Experiences in Close Relationships scale, and the ways in which the mechanics of the measure have limitations for capturing the implications of both security and trauma for adult attachment.


Work on this book has taken five years, during which time I have accumulated an absurd number of debts. A more detailed account of the experience and nature of these accumulated debts can be found in Duschinsky, R. (2019) Attachment and the archive: barriers (p. xxvi) and facilitators to the use of historical sociology as complementary developmental science. Science in Context, 32(3), 309–26.

First off, my apologies are due to my father for failing, as yet, to turn Chapter 3 into a film. I agree that it should be. The reader is welcome to be in touch with advice for casting. More generally, I would be delighted to hear from readers and to learn from their thoughts about attachment research, past and present.

I am grateful to my mother for first encouraging me to read Bowlby as a teenager. Having ideas from attachment theory as a reference point through adolescence and adult development was a true resource. I have also taken courage from witnessing her indomitability in the face of health challenges, as well as her thirst for adventure. Conversations with my wife have likewise contributed directly to this book. Cornerstones benefited from her good judgement in appraising forks in the road, her insights as a clinician, her strength in the face of our losses, and from the countless ways in which our relationship makes me happy.

The basis of Cornerstones has been access to the John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, and Mary Main/Erik Hesse Archives. My first thanks therefore must go to the Wellcome Collection for hosting the Bowlby Archive (reference: PP/Bow/), the Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for hosting the Ainsworth Archive, and to Mary Main, Erik Hesse, and Naomi Gribneau-Bahm at Berkeley for their efforts to make materials available for study (soon to arrive at the Wellcome Collections). These are inexhaustible, miraculous collections, and I feel deeply lucky to have had access to them. This archival research has been enriched by the kindness Mary Main and Erik Hesse have shown me, in the course of years of correspondence and multiple visits. This has been a transformative gift. I have especially appreciated our wider conversations about poetry and family, as well as their patience with my endless questions and criticisms. And—on a personal level—I have appreciated the chance to see, and hopefully learn something from, a marriage so pervaded in every part by affection and security.

Special thanks are due to the Wellcome Trust for making it possible for me to work on this book (Grant WT103343MA), and for encouraging the menagerie of spin-off projects. I have appreciated Dan O’Connor, Tom Bray, Lauren Couch, Jack Harrington, Jenny Haynes, and Ross MacFarlane, among others, for their faith in me. Chapter 3 was enhanced by Mary Sue Moore’s generosity in sharing the detailed notes she took during the 1987 Adult Attachment Institute in London.

Among colleagues, I am grateful to Sarah Foster, an ally and friend. Sarah’s creativity, meticulousness, and insight have fed this project from the very start, and helped it grow. Thanks are similarly due to Sophie Reijman, who has also been an ally and friend on this journey. It has been a joy and a privilege to work with her. Cornerstones is dedicated to Sophie, and to León, her new little one. Marinus van IJzendoorn and Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg have been unstinting in their generosity and care, not least in encouraging Sophie Reijman to come to join me at Cambridge in the first place. I have learnt so much from discussions with them across the themes of this book, and had great fun spending time together.

Affectionate thanks are likewise due to Judith Solomon for having me to stay during her Fulbright Visiting Professorship at Vienna University, a visit that has subsequently formed the basis for many varied and fun conversations. A reader who would like to see ‘proceedings’ from these conversations might take a look at Duschinsky, R., Greco, M., & Solomon, J. (2015) The politics of attachment: lines of flight with Bowlby, Deleuze and Guattari. Theory, Culture & Society, 32(7–8), 173–95; or Solomon, J., Duschinsky, R., Bakkum, L., & Schuengel, C. (2017) Toward an architecture of attachment disorganization: John Bowlby’s published and unpublished reflections. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 22(4), 539–60.

(p. xxvii) My grateful thanks to Martin Baum, Charlotte Holloway, Janine Fisher, Julie Musk and Lucía Pérez at Oxford University Press for their support for this book.

Chapters of this book have benefited greatly from feedback from Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg, Sasha Ban, Kazuko Behrens, Richard Bowlby, Jean-François Bureau, Betty Carlson, Patricia Crittenden, Tsachi Ein-Dor, Jo Faulkner, Pasco Fearon, Chris Fraley, Lydia Fransham, Pehr Granqvist, Philip Heslop, Erik Hesse, Jeremy Holmes, Juliet Hopkins, Michael Lamb, Mary Main, Karin Maraney, Bob Marvin, Mario Mikulincer, Mary Sue Moore, Mikhael Reuven, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Glenn Roisman, Avi Sagi-Schwartz, Jessica Saffer, Carlo Schuengel, Judith Solomon, Alan Sroufe, Paul Stenner, Alessandro Talia, Anne Tharner, Ross Thompson, Marinus van IJzendoorn, Marije Verhage, Mary Jo Ward, Everett Waters, and Judy Keiner. I am also grateful to other researchers who have offered encouragement for this work, including but by no means limited to Byron Egeland, Kelly Brennan-Jones, Steve Farnfield, Peter Fonagy, Deborah Jacobvitz, Kasia Kozlowska, Mirjam Oosterman, David Shemmings, Gottfried Spangler, Ruan Spies, Phil Shaver, Miriam and Howard Steele, Frank van der Horst, Sue White, David Wilkins, and Matt Woolgar.

I am grateful to Tommie Forslund and Kate White for all that I have learnt from them in the course of editing the Attachment Reader for Wiley and Trauma and Loss: Key Texts from the John Bowlby Archive for Routledge. The Bowlby family have been remarkable in their wholehearted support of these endeavours, and their helpful feedback.

At Cambridge, I am grateful to Jonathan Mant and the Primary Care Unit, who provide my academic home and secure base. The last stage of the book’s composition has been bewildering and painful on various fronts in terms of losses and family health. Jonathan’s kindness has helped make it possible to continue. I have similarly felt fortunate to be part of Sidney Sussex College, which has been a supportive community at every turn. Particular thanks are due to Max Beber, Richard Penty, Brett Gray, and Gary Gerstle for their availability through difficult times. I have benefited from the mentorship of Mary Dixon-Woods, Claire Hughes, and Susan Golombok, who have been role models and ever-thoughtful friends. Finally, I feel deeply fortunate for the intellectual companionship and camaraderie of my immediate research group: Lianne Bakkum, Helen Beckwith, Barry Coughlan, Sarah Foster, Julia Mannes, Sophie Reijman, Sam Reisz, Guy Skinner, and Melody Turner. I am grateful to them for conversations about the ideas contained in this book as they have pursued aligned inquiries with other methodologies. And I am thankful for their unwavering support through the challenges of the last year. (p. xxviii)


1 Pittman, J.F. (2012) Attachment orientations: a boon to family theory and research. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 4(4), 306–10.

2 Simpson, J.A. & Howland, M. (2012) Bringing the partner into attachment theory and research. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 4(4), 282–9, p.282.

3 Wastell, D. & White, S. (2017) Blinded by Science: The Social Implications of Epigenetics and Neuroscience. Cambridge: Policy Press. Discourses of ‘interpersonal neurobiology’, and the work of Allan Schore in particular, have been important for the take-up of appeals to attachment within popular and policy discourses emphasising the importance of child development for the brain. See, for example, Schore, A.N. (2001) Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1–2), 7–66; and building from Schore’s work, Gerhardt, S. (2014) Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain, 2nd edn. London: Routledge. Schore’s work has been much less influential within the attachment research community. An exception is discussed in Chapter 3.

4 Bachmann, C.J., Beecham, J., O’Connor, T.G., Scott, A., Briskman, J., & Scott, S. (2019) The cost of love: financial consequences of insecure attachment in antisocial youth. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 60(12), 1343-50.

5 In response to the question ‘What theories or research do you rely on to inform a plan of how to support a child?’ attachment theory was mentioned by 11% of respondents. The next most cited responses were general areas rather than specific theories or research paradigms; and a long way behind, ‘mental health’ at 5% and ‘child development’ at 4%. The next most cited specific theory was social learning theory at 1%. Mention of ‘attachment disorder’ appeared in a further 2.5% of responses. Survey responses to a government inquiry offer little sure knowledge about what these organizations actually do and why. However, the leading position of attachment theory specifically, even compared to ‘mental health’ and ‘child development’ as general areas, suggests the position of appeal to attachment as a dominant and apparently authorized discourse within the justification and conceptualization of child welfare practice. Department for Education (2018) Children in need of help and protection: call for evidence. On the contradictions and diversity of uses of attachment discourses in child welfare contexts, see McLean, S., Riggs, D., Kettler, L., & Delfabbro, P. (2013) Challenging behaviour in out‐of‐home care: use of attachment ideas in practice. Child & Family Social Work, 18(3), 243–52; Smith, M., Cameron, C., & Reimer, D. (2017) From attachment to recognition for children in care. British Journal of Social Work, 47(6), 1606–23.

6 The particular utility of attachment ideas for clinicians and child welfare practitioners, increasing the credibility of practice through association with the evidence-base of attachment research, is praised directly in Bennett, C.S. & Nelson, J.K. (2008) Closing thoughts: special issue on attachment. Clinical Social Work Journal, 36, 109–11. Concern about many ‘attachment-based’ therapies as pseudoscience has been raised by Mercer, J. (2019) Conventional and unconventional perspectives on attachment and attachment problems: comparisons and implications, 2006–2016. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 36(2), 81–95.

7 E.g. Haight, W.L., Kagle, J.D., & Black, J.E. (2003) Understanding and supporting parent–child relationships during foster care visits: attachment theory and research. Social Work, 48(2), 195–207; Farnfield, S. & Holmes, P. (eds) (2014) The Routledge Handbook of Attachment: Assessment. London: Routledge.

8 An important contribution to the popularity of attachment theory among social workers, especially in the UK, was made by Howe, D., Brandon, M., Hinings, D., & Schofield, G. (1999) Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support: A Practice and Assessment Model. London: Palgrave.

9 For a useful review see Slade, A. & Holmes, J. (2017) Attachment in Therapeutic Practice. London: SAGE.

10 Hogg, S. (2019) Rare Jewels: Specialised Parent–Infant Relationship Teams in the UK. London: Parent–Infant Partnership UK. In the UK, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for postnatal care state that health visitors should promote the emerging attachment relationship, and that health visitors should assess potential obstacles or problems for this relationship. NICE (2015) Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth. London: NICE.

11 Laybourne, G., Andersen, J., & Sands, J. (2008) Fostering attachments in looked after children: further insight into the group-based programme for foster carers. Adoption and Fostering, 32(4), 64–76; Benesh, A.S. & Cui, M. (2017) Foster parent training programmes for foster youth: a content review. Child & Family Social Work, 22(1), 548–59.

12 Wall, G. (2018) ‘Love builds brains’: representations of attachment and children’s brain development in parenting education material. Sociology of Health & Illness, 40(3), 395–409. Attachment is a module in the Ready Steady Baby book, given to all new parents in Scotland.

13 Ministry of Justice (2011) Working with Personality Disordered Offenders: A Practitioner’s Guide. London: HMSO; Baim, C. & Morrison, T. (2011) Attachment-Based Practice with Adults: Understanding Strategies and Promoting Positive Change. Hove: Pavilion Publishing; Brown, R. & Ward, H. (2012) Decision-Making within a Child’s Timeframe: An Overview of Current Research Evidence for Family Justice Professionals Concerning Child Development and the Impact of Maltreatment. London: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre; Crittenden, P.M., Farnfield, S., Landini, A., & Grey, B. (2013) Assessing attachment for family court decision making. Journal of Forensic Practice, 15(4), 237–48.

14 Geddes, H. (2006) Attachment in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Schools. London: Worth Publishing; Beckh, K. & Becker-Stoll, F. (2016) Formations of attachment relationships towards teachers lead to conclusions for public child care. International Journal of Developmental Science, 10(3–4), 103–10; Rose, J., McGuire-Snieckus, R., Gilbert, L., & McInnes, K. (2019) Attachment Aware Schools: the impact of a targeted and collaborative intervention. Pastoral Care in Education, 37(2), 162–84. In the UK, NICE has mandated that ‘Schools and other education providers should ensure that all staff who may come into contact with children and young people with attachment difficulties receive appropriate training on attachment difficulties’ (Recommendations 1.2.1). NICE (2016) Children’s attachment: attachment in children and young people who are adopted from care, in care or at high risk of going into care. London: NICE.

15 Ainsworth, M. (1969) CPA oral history of psychology in Canada interview. Unpublished. ‘I think it was just the way it is so often with textbooks. The things that get into the textbooks are the early publications and they don’t ever get around to putting in the later publications, and people write textbooks on the basis of other people’s textbooks.’ Illustrating the caricature and outright mistakes about attachment research available from textbooks, see Parke, R.D. & Clarke-Stewart, A. (2011) Social Development. New York: Wiley.

16 Ainsworth, M. (1968) Letter to John Bowlby, 27 April 1968. PP/Bow/K.4/12: ‘Attachment has become a bandwagon. There are so many people now interested in research in this area, and so many approaches, both theoretical and methodological. I am afraid that people will leap in in a half-baked way, that findings will be equivocal or conflicting, and that perhaps interest will move away from “attachment” dismissing it as one more area that did not “pan out”.’

17 Furnivall, J., McKenna, M., McFarlane, S., & Grant, E. (2012) Attachment matters for all: an attachment mapping exercise for children’s services in Scotland. Glasgow: Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELCIS).

18 Morison, A., Taylor, E., & Gervais, M. (2019) How a sample of residential childcare staff conceptualize and use attachment theory in practice. Child & Youth Services, DOI: 10.1080/0145935X.2019.1583100.

19 Bennett, S. & Blome, W.W. (2013) Implementing attachment theory in the child welfare system: clinical implications and organizational considerations. In J.E. Bettmann & D.D. Friedman (eds) Attachment-Based Clinical Work with Children and Adolescents (pp.259–83). New York: Springer.

21 Karen, R. (1994) Becoming Attached. New York: Warner Books. Karen’s book developed an earlier article: Karen, R. (1990) Becoming attached. The Atlantic, February. Karen’s stock-taking not only was influential for the public reception of attachment theory, but also influenced subsequent attachment research, such as providing a prompt for the development of the ‘Circle of Security’ intervention: Powell, B., Cooper, G., Hoffman, K., & Marvin, B. (2016) The Circle of Security Intervention. New York: Guilford, p.9.

22 The boom in funding for attachment research in the 1990s is discussed in White, K. & Schwartz, J. (2007) Attachment here and now: an interview with Peter Fonagy. Attachment: New Directions in Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, 1(1), 57–61.

23 Bretherton, I. (1992) The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28(5), 759–75; Holmes, J. (1993) John Bowlby and Attachment Theory. London: Routledge.

24 E.g. Van Dijken, S. (1998) John Bowlby: His Early Life: A Biographical Journey into the Roots of Attachment Theory. London: Free Association Books; Mayhew, B. (2006) Between love and aggression: the politics of John Bowlby. History of the Human Sciences, 19(4), 19–35; van der Horst, F. (2011) John Bowlby—From Psychoanalysis to Ethology: Unravelling the Roots of Attachment Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

25 E.g. Birns, B. (1999) I. Attachment theory revisited: challenging conceptual and methodological sacred cows. Feminism & Psychology, 9(1), 10–21; Vicedo, M. (2013) The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. As Ruck observes, the popularity of the development of attachment theory for historians of science resides at least in part in the fact that ‘the theory offers a looking glass into the social foundations and effects of science; the function and logic of scientific controversies and disciplinary hierarchies; and the interrelation of descriptive and prescriptive scientific theories, scientific and popular discourse, and science and ideology all at once’ : Ruck, N. (2014) Review: Marga Vicedo. The nature and nurture of love. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 50(4), 410–11, p.410.

26 Fonagy, P. & Campbell, C. (2016) Attachment theory and mentalization. In A. Elliott & J. Prager (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Psychoanalysis in the Social Sciences and Humanities (pp.115–31). London: Routledge, p.123.

27 For an example of a work in critical psychology that does little more than repeat stock criticisms with little relevance to contemporary attachment research, see Walsh, R.T.G., Teo, T., & Baydala, A. (2014) A Critical History and Philosophy of Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

28 One expression of the sheer scale of the historical background to contemporary attachment research is the six-volume edited work of Slade, A. & Holmes, J. (eds) (2014) Attachment Theory. London: Sage. The editors aimed to collect 60 essential papers; however, 119 papers ultimately were judged indispensable. On the diversity of factors involved in canon formation, and above all the importance of subsequent resonance, see Fishelov, D. (2010) Dialogues with/and Great Books: The Dynamics of Canon Formation. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press.

29 The idea of generations in attachment research is heuristic rather than intended as a simple statement of fact. Certainly, there are figures who do not fall easily within one generation or the other in terms of age and attitudes; Jude Cassidy, Jay Belsky, Marinus van IJzendoorn, and Gottfried Spangler are all clear examples. And the present book is centrally concerned with changes over time regarding theory, method, and research priorities that do not divide by generation. On the concept of ‘generations’ see Aboim, S. & Vasconcelos, P. (2014) From political to social generations: a critical reappraisal of Mannheim’s classical approach. European Journal of Social Theory, 17, 165–83.

30 Ainsworth’s first doctoral students at Johns Hopkins graduated in 1972, among them Mary Main; her final doctoral students were Jude Cassidy in 1986 and Carolyn Eichberg in 1987. This means that most of Ainsworth’s doctoral students have moved into retirement over the past decade.

31 Bowlby, J. (1970) Letter to Mary Main, 18 November 1970. PP/Bow/J.4/1.

32 Cassidy, J. & Shaver, P. (eds) (2016) Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications, 3rd edn. New York: Guildford; Prior, V. & Glaser, D. (2006) Understanding Attachment and Attachment Disorders: Theory, Evidence and Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Press; Gillath, O., Karantzas, G.C., & Fraley, R.C. (2016) Adult Attachment: A Concise Introduction to Theory and Research. London: Academic Press. See also Holmes, P. & Farnfield, S. (2014) The Routledge Handbook of Attachment. London: Routledge.

33 Thompson, R.A., Simpson, J.A., & Berlin, L. (eds) (2020) Attachment: The Fundamental Questions. New York: Guildford.

34 Thompson, R.A. (2017) Twenty-first century attachment theory. In H. Keller & K. Bard (eds) The Cultural Nature of Attachment: Contextualizing Relationships and Development (pp.301–19). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.303.

35 Schickore, J. (2008) Doing science, writing science. Philosophy of Science, 75(3), 323–43.

36 For example, Smeeton puts this polemically, alleging that ‘we watch as the next generation of social workers suffer the consequences of intellectual inbreeding, fumbling through practice with webbed theories and six-fingered methodologies that give up on families unable to reach the optimal state of a “secure pattern” attachment with their child’. Smeeton, J. (2017) From Aristotle to Arendt: a phenomenological exploration of forms of knowledge and practice in the context of child protection social work in the UK. Qualitative Social Work, 16(1), 14–28, p.16. See also Garrett, M.P. (2017) Wired: early intervention and the ‘neuromolecular gaze’. British Journal of Social Work, 48(3), 656–74. Such criticisms are not based on empirical work on how attachment research is conducted, transmitted, or applied.

37 For example, Ross Thompson’s remarks during discussion in Keller, H. & Thompson, R. (2018) Attachment theory: past, present & future, recorded at the 2nd ‘Wilhelm Wundt Dialogue’, 28 November 2018, Leipzig University, hosted by the Leipzig Research Center for Early Child Development (LFE).

38 One of the few studies found that the more training professionals had in attachment theory, the less likely they were to make judgemental comments about parents’ caregiving behaviours. McMahon, C., Huber, A., Kohlhoff, J., & Camberis, A.L. (2017) Does training in the Circle of Security framework increase relational understanding in infant/child and family workers? Infant Mental Health Journal, 38(5), 658–68.

39 Some early findings are presented in Reijman, S., Foster, S., & Duschinsky, R. (2018) The infant disorganised attachment classification: ‘Patterning within the disturbance of coherence’. Social Science & Medicine, 200, 52–58.

40 Occasional further manuscripts have been made available by other attachment researchers including Chris Fraley, Klaus and Karin Grossmann, and Alan Sroufe.

41 Bowlby, J. (1974) Marginalia on Kuhn, second thoughts on paradigms. PP/Bow/H.98: Heavily underlined: ‘Acquiring an arsenal of exemplars, just as much as learning symbolic generalisations, is integral to the process by which a student gains access to the cognitive achievements of his disciplinary group’ (p.471).

42 This function of the history of psychology is discussed well in Capshew, J. (2014) History of psychology since 1945: a North American review. In R. Backhouse & P. Fontaine (eds) A Historiography of the Modern Social Sciences (pp.144–82). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

43 The links between historical research and attachment research in this regard relate especially to researchers in the developmental tradition. The social psychological tradition of attachment research has offered fewer relevant reflections on the idea of history, reflecting a predominant tendency in the broader discipline of social psychology. However, see Billig, M. (2018) Those who only know of social psychology know not social psychology: a tribute to Gustav Jahoda’s historical approach. Culture & Psychology, 24(3), 282–93.

44 Bowlby, J. (c.1932–33) History taking; methods of examining. PP/BOW/D.2/13.

45 Bowlby, J. (1990) Charles Darwin: A Life. New York: Norton.

46 Wilson, A. & Ashplant, T.G. (1988) Whig history and present-centred history. The Historical Journal, 31(1), 1–16.

47 See Bowlby, J. (1982) A case of mistaken identity. Higher Education Quarterly 36(4): 328–32; Bowlby, J. (1962) Notes on Feyerabend. PP/BOW/H.99; Bowlby, J. (1974) Marginalia on Kuhn, Second Thoughts on Paradigms. PP/Bow/H.98.

48 Bowlby, J. (1976) In Dr Martin Bax. Are Mothers Necessary? Radio 3, October 1976. PP/Bow/F.5/7.

49 Bowlby, J. (1989) Attachment and Loss: Continuing Education Seminars. Film produced by David Scott May and Marion Solomon. Distributed by Insight Media.

50 Bowlby, J. & Dahrendorf, R. (1958) Summary of discussions and topics for final session. Seminar delivered to members of the Stanford Conflict Seminar, February 1958. PP/Bow/H.67. See also Chang, H. (2017) Who cares about the history of science? Notes and Records, 71(1), 91–107.

51 Bowlby, J. (1982) A case of mistaken identity. Higher Education Quarterly, 36(4), 328–32.

52 Bowlby, J. (1979) The ten books which have most influenced my thought, 24 October 1979. PP/Bow/A.1/8.

53 Bowlby, J. (1981) Jean Piaget: some reminiscences. The Tavistock Gazette, 5, 3–4, p.4.

54 Tosh, N. (2003) Anachronism and retrospective explanation: in defense of a present-centred history of science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 34, 647–59; Oreskes, N. (2013) Why I Am a Presentist. Science in Context, 26(4), 595–609; Loison, L. (2016) Forms of presentism in the history of science: rethinking the project of historical epistemology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 60, 29–37.

55 Bowlby, J. (c.1950) Marginalia on Bronfenbrenner’s ‘Toward an integrated theory of personality’. PP/Bow/J.9/37.

56 Van IJzendoorn, M. & van der Veer, R. (1984) Main Currents of Critical Psychology, p.233, trans. M. Schoen. New York: Irvington Publishers. See also Klempe, S.H. & Smith, R. (eds) (2017) Centrality of History for Theory Construction in Psychology. New York: Springer.

57 The concept of ‘development’ of course has its own long history. See, for example, Wertheimer, M. (1985) The evolution of the concept of development in the history of psychology. In G. Eckardt, W.G. Bringmann, & L. Sprung (eds) Contributions to a History of Developmental Psychology (pp.13–25). Berlin: Mouton; Valsiner, J. (1994) Irreversibility of time and the construction of historical developmental psychology. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1(1–2), 25–42.

58 Sroufe, L.A. (1996) Emotional Development, p.xii. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

59 Sroufe, L.A. (2007) The place of development in developmental psychopathology. In A. Masten (ed.) Multilevel Dynamics in Developmental Psychopathology: Pathways to the Future: The Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology, Vol. 34 (pp.285–99). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, p.290.

60 Sroufe, L.A. (1996) Emotional Development, p.xii. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

61 Roisman, G.I., Madsen, S.D., Hennighausen, K.H., Sroufe, L.A., & Collins, A. (2001) The coherence of dyadic behavior across parent–child and romantic relationships as mediated by the internalized representation of experience. Attachment & Human Development, 3(2), 156–72, p.169. An example of attachment researchers ‘building in the ruins’ is the way that the term ‘internal working model’ has been used by later attachment researchers to show that Bowlby was attentive to change, since these models were ‘working’, i.e. open to development. However, this was never Bowlby’s intention with the term: ‘working’ just meant that they were applied (Chapter 1). Nonetheless, the word ‘working’ has made available this subsequent interpretation.

62 Bowlby, J. (1980) Loss. London: Pimlico: ‘for many widows and widowers it is precisely because they are willing for their feelings of attachment to the dead spouse to persist that their sense of identity is preserved and they become able to reorganize their lives along lines they find meaningful’ (p.98).

63 Carlson, E.A., Egeland, B., & Sroufe, L.A. (2009) A prospective investigation of the development of borderline personality symptoms. Development & Psychopathology, 21(4), 1311–34, p.1315.

64 Juffer, F., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (eds) Promoting Positive Parenting: An Attachment-Based Intervention. New York: Psychology Press.

65 Cf. Mykhalovskiy, E., Frohlich, K.L., Poland, B., Di Ruggiero, E., Rock, M.J., & Comer, L. (2018) Critical social science with public health: agonism, critique and engagement. Critical Public Health, 29(5).

66 Bourdieu, P. (2000) Pascalian Meditations. Stanford: Stanford University Press; Latour, B. (2013) An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Illustrative of the ‘debunking’ narrative is Gaskins, S. (2013) The puzzle of attachment. In N. Quinn & J.M. Mageo (eds) Attachment Reconsidered: Cultural Perspectives on a Western Theory (pp.33–66). London: Palgrave.

67 Sedgwick, E.K. (2003) Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

68 Duschinsky, R. (2019) Attachment and the archive: barriers and facilitators to the use of historical sociology as complementary developmental science. Science in Context, 32(3), 309–26.

69 Ainsworth, M. (1972) Attachment and dependency: a comparison. In J. Gewirtz (ed.) Attachment and Dependency (pp.97–137). Washington, DC: Winston: ‘In terms of his problem, theoretical orientation, resources, opportunities, and personal style, each investigator chooses his own set of compromises. The interests of science seem likely to be best served in this context by a multiplicity of studies, each with its own compromises, which yet may in aggregate answer the questions’ (p.126).

70 Sroufe, L.A. (1997) Psychopathology as an outcome of development. Development & Psychopathology, 9(2), 251–68, p.251.

71 Danziger, K. (1994) Does the history of psychology have a future? Theory & Psychology, 4(4), 467–84: It is ‘when the professional community is divided in some profound way that a critical disciplinary history has a significant contribution to make’ (p.478).

72 Hacking, I. (2002) Historical Ontology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; Collins, H. & Evans, R. (2014) Actor and analyst: a response to Coopmans and Button. Social Studies of Science, 44(5), 786–92.

73 Cavell, S. (1994) In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

74 E.g. Smith, R. (2013) Between Mind and Nature: A History of Psychology. New York: Reaktion Books.

75 Shaver, P.R. & Brennan, K.B. (1991) Measures of depression and loneliness. In J.P. Robinson, P.R. Shaver, & L.S. Wrightsman (eds) Measures of Social Psychological Attitudes, Vol. 1 (pp.195–289). San Diego: Academic Press: ‘In addition to being parts of ordinary language, “depression” and “loneliness” are technical terms within psychiatry and clinical psychology . … When ordinary concepts are used technically, definitional confusion may arise … these emotions are closely related to other states discussed in this book: alienation, low self-esteem, external locus of control (helplessness), and dissatisfaction with life. In ordinary language, this is as it should be; in professional social science it is problematic . … Another problem is that the terms “loneliness” and “depression” harbour implicit causal theories’ (p.195).

76 Shaver, P.R., Morgan, H.J., & Wu, S. (1996) Is love a ‘basic’ emotion? Personal Relationships, 3, 81–96, p.83. See also Derksen, M. (1997) Are we not experimenting then? The rhetorical demarcation of psychology and common sense. Theory & Psychology, 7(4), 435–56.

77 Bowlby’s predicament can be seen within the wider context of psychoanalysis discourse in the period, which both wanted and repudiated the advantages of ordinary language. This issue is considered well in Abram, J. (2007) The Language of Winnicott: A Dictionary of Winnicott’s Use of Words. London: Karnac.

78 Geertz describes common sense as having five experiential properties: it is felt in use as ‘natural’, ‘practical’, ‘thin’/’simple’, ‘immethodical’, and ‘accessible’. Geertz, C. (1983) Common sense as a cultural system. In Local Knowledge (pp.73–93). New York: Basic Books.

79 Bowlby, J. (1980) Loss, p.17. London: Pimlico.

80 Bowlby, J. (1972) Notes towards Separation. PP/Bow/K.5./17.

81 Bowlby, J. (1973) Separation, p.118. New York: Basic Books. As a mature scholar, Bowlby regularly warned his students regarding the use of language in their theorizing. E.g. Issroff, J. (2005) Donald Winnicott and John Bowlby: Personal and Professional Perspectives. London: Karnac: ‘He concentrated on ensuring that language used was not loose, and on keeping speculation to a minimum’ (p.26). ‘Often he held forth about the importance of language used for conceptualising’ (p.27).

82 Bowlby, J. (1987–90) Darwin’s Scientific Achievement. Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 8884.

83 Benjafield, J.G. (2016) The digital history of the anglophone vocabulary of psychology: an exploration using Zipfian methods. History of Psychology, 19(2), 125–40, p.127.

84 E.g. Bowlby, J. (1983) Letter to Helen Block Lewis, 12 January 1983. PP/Bow/J.9/123: ‘As I expect you know, some difficulties have arisen over the best use of the term attachment. For purely historical reasons it seems best now to confine it to protection and comfort-seeking behaviour as seen most obviously in childhood.’

85 On the costs and gains of metaphor for Bowlby’s reception, see Duniec, E. & Raz, M. (2011) Vitamins for the soul: John Bowlby’s thesis of maternal deprivation, biomedical metaphors and the deficiency model of disease. History of Psychiatry, 22(1), 93–107. The issue is likewise discussed in Fonagy, P. (2003) Some complexities in the relationship of psychoanalytic theory to technique. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(1), 13–47: ‘Science regularly employs metaphor in the absence of detailed knowledge of the underlying process. Provided that metaphor is not confused with a full understanding—or, to use Freud’s expression, the scaffolding is not mistaken for the building—heuristic considerations might outweigh any disadvantages of such employment’ (p.36).

86 Waters, E. & McIntosh, J. (2011) Are we asking the right questions about attachment? Family Court Review, 49(3), 474–82, p.474.

88 Foucault refers to a ‘field of stabilization’ for the concepts and methods of a discipline that make recognition of equivalence possible. Attachment research has benefited from allowing many an expansive field of stabilization that allows many phenomena to be recognized as pertaining to ideas relating to attachment. On the concept of ‘field of stabilization’ see Foucault, M. (1969, 1972) The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, p.103, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon.

89 Luyten, P. (2015) Unholy questions about five central tenets of psychoanalysis that need to be empirically verified. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 35(1), 5–23.

90 For instance, the term ‘coherence’ has a central place in the conceptualization and coding of the Adult Attachment Interview (Chapter 3). Beijersbergen, Bakermans-Kranenburg, and van IJzendoorn conducted a detailed empirical study in 2006 to see whether attachment researchers used the term ‘coherent’ in the same way as ordinary language or other academic specialisms. The answer was a resounding ‘no’. Beijersbergen, M.D., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., & van IJzendoorn, M.H. (2006) The concept of coherence in attachment interviews: comparing attachment experts, linguists, and non-experts. Attachment & Human Development, 8(4), 353–69.