Ward et al.

Inge Bretherton's The Origins of Attachment Theory

Reading Questions

This article gives us an historical introduction to a modern area of psychology that is directly descended from Freud. Bowlby and Ainsworth's achievement is beyond what many psychologists thought could be done: it combines some of the central insights of Freud with a sensibility for behavior in the real environment, a modern understanding of cognitive models, and rigorous experimental methods. Attachment theory as constructed by Bowlby and Ainsworth is both thoroughly experimental, rooted in Freud, and borrows heavily from a biological heritage: ethology.

Let's do ethology first. Ethology was an outgrowth of biologists' concern for understanding behavior. The founding ethologists (like Konrad Lorenz and Nikolaas Tinbergen) came from zoology and were interested in the behavior of animals for their own sake (not as a way to study humans). They pioneered the careful method of studying animals in "the wild" and documenting their behavior. Mary Ainsworth borrowed this careful method and appended it to a concern for infant-mother interaction.

Experimental methods were also Ainsworth's gift to attachment theory. Her "strange situation" experimental measure of security of attachment between a mother and a child has become a touchstone method in much developmental psychology. Bowlby's contribution was to marry the idea of cognitive models with Freud's emphasis on early childhood attachment to the mother. Early attachment experience produced cognitive models of how all attachment should work, said Bowlby, and the work of therapy should be concentrated on providing a safe place for revising inadequate models.

This article is one I might assign for seniors to read, so you may come across words and approaches you don't understand. Feel free to ask questions. Really interesting stuff often happens in class when you ask questions. But take the time to read it carefully (and to look at how it helps you answer some of the exam questions).