Attachment Theory

As proposed by Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1980), attachment theory addresses processes that shape the capacity of people to form meaningful emotional bonds with others throughout their lives.2 Although attachment begins in infancy, and is thus thought to be primarily a childhood process, the effects of attachment do not end in childhood; several investigators have argued that, once developed, attachment patterns persist into adulthood and affect a multitude of relationships (Ainsworth, 1989; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Doane & Diamond, 1994; Ricks, 1985). Indeed, Bowlby summed up this lifelong process most succinctly by suggesting that attachment is a process that stretches from "cradle to grave."

2The terms bonding and attachment are used interchangeably, even though some authors (e.g., Parker, 1979) have argued that they are not the same. For the purposes of this chapter, however, they are similar enough to be thought of as reflecting the same construct.

The quality of contact with caretakers is a key determinant of the individual's attachment patterns (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). In particular, consistently affectionate, nurturant, and protective interactions with parents promote the development of the child's ability to form normal behavioral, cognitive, and emotional bonds with others throughout life. However, attachment does not always function normally; deviations from secure attachment result when bonding processes are disrupted in some fashion. Moreover, such dysfunctional attachment patterns in children and adolescents have been suggested to be related to peer rejection, problematic self-control, social competence deficits, alcohol abuse, conduct disorders (see P. M. Cole & Zahn-Waxler, 1992; Doane & Diamond, 1994), and risk for depression (Bemporad & Romano, 1992; Cummings & Cicchetti, 1990).

Cognitive Vulnerability According to Attachment Theory. The risk that appears to originate from dysfunctional attachment or bonding patterns may stem from cognitive variables (Ingram et al., 1998). In particular, attachment theory has long emphasized the concept of internal working models. Quite similar to schema models, these are thought to reflect the cognitive representation of relationships that have been generalized through interactions with key figures early in the individual's life. According to most attachment theorists, once developed these working models continue to influence the cognitions and feelings that individuals experience about relationships with important others. Insecure attachment will be reflected in the organization and functioning of the individual's working models, leading to distorted information about interpersonal interactions and thus to an increased risk for maladaptive relations with others (see Bowlby, 1988). Given the importance of interpersonal relationships for providing support and buffering against stress, dysfunctional relationships that are caused by maladaptive information processing provide the basis for vulnerability to depression.

Alcohol No More

Alcohol No More

Do you love a drink from time to time? A lot of us do, often when socializing with acquaintances and loved ones. Drinking may be beneficial or harmful, depending upon your age and health status, and, naturally, how much you drink.

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