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Ward, A. (1999). John Bowlby: His Early Life. A Biographical Journey into the Roots of Attachment Theory. By Suzan Van Dijken. Free Association Books, Pp. vi+214.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 13(1):96-99.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 13(1):96-99

John Bowlby: His Early Life. A Biographical Journey into the Roots of Attachment Theory. By Suzan Van Dijken. Free Association Books, Pp. vi+214.

Review by:
Anne Ward

The author is a researcher in the Centre for Child and Family Studies at Rijks University in Leiden. She chose to write about Bowlby's life up till 1951, the year in which his WHO report, Maternal Care and Mental Health, was published, and Bowlby himself was 44. The report propelled him into the public eye, and also marked a theoretical turning-point in his thinking as he searched for a theoretical framework in which to explain his findings. The resulting ‘attachment theory’ would bring both controversy and further fame. The earlier part of Bowlby's development is much less well documented, but likely to be of particular interest, given his later preoccupation with attachment experiences in childhood.

We are offered an ‘intellectual’ biographical study.

The choice of an intellectual biographical study and not another type of biographical study is made because only by paying attention to Bowlby's intellectual development will light be thrown upon possible roots of separation and the ways in which Bowlby thought about separation.

Van Dijken has achieved this in a fascinating, thorough, and readable form. Bowlby's journey is presented chronologically. Each chapter is introduced and summarised, so that one can collect from time to time the vast array of detail provided. As befits a Bowlbian, Van Dijken attests to the importance of transgenerational influences, and begins with his grandparents. We learn of a particularly traumatic loss for Bowlby's father at the age of 5, when his own father was murdered and subsequently buried in China.

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