The Origins of an Attachment Approach to Social Work Practice with Adults

Chapter
Part of the Essential Clinical Social Work Series book series (ECSWS)

Abstract

Attachment theory is widely accepted and acclaimed as a major influence on ­psychological understanding and psychotherapy and has been gaining attention from social work researchers, educators, and clinicians. Its account of lifespan development has changed our thinking about the significance of certain close relationships, how they are made and maintained, and how they can be affected by disruptions such as separation or loss. An attachment approach offers a view of the emotional needs of children, emphasizing that the quality of early caregiving may have lasting effects on feelings of stability and security (Sroufe, Egeland, & Carlson, 2005). The development of these basic concepts of attachment is credited to the work of John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst whose analytic training coincided with the development of object relations theory. Mary Ainsworth, a Canadian developmental psychologist, who was Bowlby’s collaborator for many years, designed the research methodology that showed the concepts could be empirically tested, and she provided the impetus for the enormous amount of research that is continuing to expand the theory in the twenty-first century. This chapter provides a particular focus on historical aspects that are pertinent to adult attachment and traces the development of attachment theory from early in Bowlby’s career when he began to formulate his ideas about affectional bonds. Though Bowlby conceived attachment as a phenomenon that operates throughout the life cycle, the field of adult attachment, including how the concepts are applied to psychotherapy with adults, has been less studied than his pioneering work on the mother–child bond. This discussion begins with a look at the origins of Bowlby’s ideas that have come to be called attachment theory, followed by a discussion of the contributions of colleagues who advanced his work.

Keywords

Depression Europe Assure Kelly Lost 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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