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John Bowlby: Pioneer of Attachment Theory

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Edward John Mostyn Bowlby (1907–1990): A British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded attachment theory, drawing on evolutionary theory and ethology, cybernetics, and cognitive theory.


John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst and child psychiatrist, sought to reform and modernize psychoanalysis to give it a scientific basis, as he was unsatisfied with parts of its metatheory. Bowlby was particularly concerned with the psychoanalytic explanation of why children develop strong emotional bonds – attachments – to their caregivers, monitoring proximity to the caregiver(s) and showing distress upon separations. Attachment was at the time considered secondary to other processes, such as special forms of psychical energies, which Bowlby argued was unscientific. As outlined below, Bowlby came to draw on ethology, cybernetics, and cognitive psychology and argued that humans and other primates over the course of evolution have developed an attachment behavioral control...


  • Attachment Theory
  • Child Psychiatrist
  • Attachment Figure
  • Attachment Behavior
  • Maternal Deprivation

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Correspondence to Tommie Forslund or Pehr Granqvist .

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Forslund, T., Granqvist, P. (2016). John Bowlby: Pioneer of Attachment Theory. In: Weekes-Shackelford, V., Shackelford, T., Weekes-Shackelford, V. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

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