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Clifford, M.D. (2017). Four Events in the Life of John Bowlby: Their Contribution to the Development of Attachment Theory. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 11(1):51-72.

(2017). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 11(1):51-72

The History Section

Four Events in the Life of John Bowlby: Their Contribution to the Development of Attachment Theory

Michael D. Clifford, Ph.D.

This article argues that identifiable events in the life of John Bowlby contributed to his development of attachment theory. Bowlby's paternal grandfather died in the early English-Chinese trade wars, and his father became a physician who pioneered battlefield medical treatment. Bowlby's father later became personal physician to England's King Edward VII, socially elevating the family so that childcare was put almost entirely in the hands of nannies. Bowlby's own nanny left the household when he was approximately four years old, a loss he describes as almost equivalent to the loss of a mother. New research here reveals the full identity of his nanny Minnie along with photographs of her, published for the first time.

At University, Bowlby and Evan Durbin became friends, Durbin's untimely death deeply affected Bowlby, and led him to recognise that attachment was a lifelong necessity. At Bowlby's first post-university work placement he met John Alford. Alford essentially functioned as an intellectual father for Bowlby, and encouraged him to follow his own experience with children and eventually to begin to develop a more humane conceptualisation of psychoanalysis. Bowlby's formal training as a psychoanalyst led him to an extraordinarily contentious training analysis with Joan Riviere, in which he demanded that she demonstrate the validity of her psychoanalytic beliefs. Riviere was a Kleinian, and Bowlby's opposition to Klein's methodology directly contributed to the formal development of attachment theory.

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