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Fonagy, P. (1999). Points of Contact and Divergence Between Psychoanalytic and Attachment Theories: Is Psychoanalytic Theory Truly Different. Psychoanal. Inq., 19(4):448-480.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 19(4):448-480

Points of Contact and Divergence Between Psychoanalytic and Attachment Theories: Is Psychoanalytic Theory Truly Different

Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., FBA

IT IS GENERALLY ACCEPTED BY PSYCHOANALYSTS that there is something wrong with attachment theory. Following the publication of John Bowlby's paper in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (Bowlby, 1960), leading psychoanalytic developmentalists were quick to point to the limitations of attachment theory—its mechanistic, nondynamic quality, and its misrepresentation of psychoanalytic ideas (A. Freud, 1960; Schur, 1960; Spitz, 1960). Opposition to attachment theory for once united the warring factions of the British Psycho-Analytical Society (the Anna Freudians and the Kleinians) (Grosskruth, 1986). Many major figures contributed to this one-sided debate between psychoanalysis and attachment theory (e.g., Engel, 1971; Rochlin, 1971; Kernberg, 1976a; Roiphe, 1976; Hanly, 1978).

Their critiques, while complex and scholarly, could be summarized under relatively few headings: (1) Attachment theory simplifies out of existence the unconscious motivational system that is considered to underpin behavior (drives, the system unconscious, and complex internalized motivational and conflict-resolving systems depicted, for example, in the structural model).

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