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Miller, J.M. (2010). Theory and Practice: Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications. 2nd ed. Edited by Jude Cassidy and Phillip R. Shaver. New York: Guilford Press, 2008, 1020 pp., $125.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 58(2):369-379.
(2010). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 58(2):369-379
Theory and Practice: Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications. 2nd ed. Edited by Jude Cassidy and Phillip R. Shaver. New York: Guilford Press, 2008, 1020 pp., $125.00.
Review by: Jill M. Miller
John Bowlby was an analyst and a psychiatrist, trained in the Freudian tradition of psychoanalysis. His research and clinical skills focused on young children and their families. His work was “enriched by fields such as ethology, cognitive psychology and systems theory,” whereas his preoccupations were with “the joys and sorrows, the hope and despair, incurred in the making, sustaining and breaking of affectional bonds” (Hamilton 1985, p. 2). To an extent Bowlby departed from the psychoanalysis of his time, as he was interested in a person's real experiences, as opposed to a singular focus on fantasy, and deviated from Freud's instinct theory because it did not explain the behavior he saw as he observed young children; yet his frame of reference was always psychoanalysis. In his 1979 paper “Psychoanalysis as Art and Science” he fully understood the tension between therapy and research, as each requires a different focus of study, mode of acquiring information, and mental outlook, and is judged on criteria of its own.
Based on biology and evolutionary theory, attachment theory is premised on the idea that the survival of human beings depends on the ability to establish and maintain emotional ties to another. There are four basic assumptions underlying Bowlby's theories (Steele 2003): (1) the intimate emotional bonds individuals have with one another have a primary status and a biological function; (2) how children are treated has a profound influence on their development and personality formation; (3) attachmentbehavior is part of an organizational system of internal working models that guide individuals in their relational lives; (4) while attachmentbehavior is resistant to change, it is not impermeable to outside influences.
With his attachment theory Bowlby changed the way parent-child relationships are viewed; together with his colleagues, he offered a way to study these relationships with a scientifically sound research methodology.
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