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The evolutionary ecology of attachment organization

Abstract

Life history theory’s principle of allocation suggests that because immature organisms cannot expend reproductive effort, the major trade-off facing juveniles will be the one between survival, on one hand, and growth and development, on the other. As a consequence, infants and children might be expected to possess psychobiological mechanisms for optimizing this trade-off. The main argument of this paper is that the attachment process serves this function and that individual differences in attachment organization (secure, insecure, and possibly others) may represent facultative adaptations to conditions of risk and uncertainty that were probably recurrent in the environment of human evolutionary adaptedness.

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Correspondence to James S. Chisholm.

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An early version of this paper was presented in the symposium “Childhood in Life-history Perspective: Developing Views” organized by Gilda Morelli and Paula Ivey for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico, February 16–20, 1994.

James S. Chisholm recently joined the Department of Anatomy and Human Biology at the University of Western Australia. Previously he taught in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico and in the Division of Human Development at the University of California, Davis. He is a biosocial anthropologist whose research interests lie in the fields of human behavioral biology, evolutionary ecology, and life history theory, where he focuses on infant social-emotional development and the development of reproductive strategies in adolescence and young adulthood. In addition to numerous articles he is the author ofNavajo Infancy: An Ethological Study of Child Development (Aldine de Gruyter, 1983).

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Chisholm, J.S. The evolutionary ecology of attachment organization. Human Nature 7, 1–37 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02733488

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Key words

  • Life history theory
  • Attachment theory
  • Individual differences
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Environment of evolutionary adaptedness