John Bowlby


Promoting Understanding of Attachment Theory

The International Attachment Network was formed as it had become apparent that there was a lack of information about the value of attachment theory in the caring, educational and legal professions, that is, among doctors and nurses, social workers, teachers, family lawyers, police and probation officers.

Most psychoanalytic and psychotherapy training programmes (with notable exceptions) excluded from their curriculum any consideration of attachment theory and its contribution to clinical practice. Many departments of academic psychology did not give much information about attachment theory.

Programmes on mental health promotion and education were often couched in a framework which underplayed attachment issues. It was considered that the vacuum needed to be filled by an organisation specifically concerned with promoting knowledge and understanding of attachment theory and related subject.

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth

Attachment theory has been defined as a way of understanding why human beings tend to form specific and long-lasting relationships with particular others and why disruptions or conflicts in these relationships can result in psychological, psycho-somatic and psycho-social disturbance.

These conditions are necessary throughout the life cycle but are even more important in early childhood as they are likely to determine in very fundamental ways the course of further personality development.

Originally, the ethological theory of attachment (currently the most well-known theory) emerged out of the joint work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth.

John Bowlby (1907-1990) was a British psychoanalyst and child psychiatrist. Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999) was an American developmental psychologist. Drawing on concepts from psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, biology, ethology, cybernetics and information processing theory, John Bowlby formulated the basic principles of the theory with Mary Ainsworth. He developed research methods to test these theories and also encouraged others to extend this work.

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