References to Key Attachment Constructs
- Potential Of Mindful Living
Part I: Maltreatment Impact
- Secure Attachment
- Insecure Attachment
- Trauma & The Brain
- Trauma & Attachment
- Trauma & Pathology
- Trauma & Relationships
- Trauma & Parenting
- Reflective Functioning
- Trauma Transference
- Solving Maltreatment
Part II: Art Of Mindfulness
- Mindfulness & Attachment
- Mindfulness & Parenting
- Mindfulness & Neurobiology
- Mindfulness & Affect
- Mindful Decentering
- Attentional Control
- Adaptive Functioning
- Mindful Interventions
- Mindful Recovery
Part III: Mindful Parenting
- Mindful Attachment
- Mindful Communication
- Mindful Interventions
- Mindful Regulation
- Summary & Conclusions
⥤ Appendix A: Attachment
- Appendix B: Mindfulness
This manuscript refers to multiple attachment constructs, which are detailed below.
The Strange Situation (Ainsworth et al., 1978) is a widely used laboratory task designed to assess the quality of the relationship between a child and their primary caregiver. The paradigm, which includes two brief separations and reunions between the child and their caregiver is designed to be increasingly stressful to activate the child's attachment system. An infant's behavior during the reunion can reveal their attachment strategies for maintaining proximity with their caregiver, exhibiting the quality of the parent-child attachment relationship. Based on infant behavior, one of four attachment statuses is traditionally assigned:
(1) Secure; describes children who become somewhat upset by the separation but reengage with the parent upon reunion and soothe relatively quickly. This indicates a history of the parent effectively meeting the child's needs.
(2) Insecure - Avoidant; these children do not reengage with the caregiver during reunion but rather avoid them. Outwardly, they may appear nonplussed by the separation.
(3) Insecure - Resistant; these children seek contact with the caregiver on reunion but are not receptive to the parent's attempts to soothe the child. Or, the child may be receptive to parental attempts to soothe, but the attempts may not be successful at soothing the child. This indicates an inconsistent history of the caregiver effectively meeting the child's needs
(4) Insecure -Disorganized; these children do not fit easily into the other attachment categories. Disorganized infants display a breakdown of attachment strategies, or may appear to lack any particular strategy to deal with the distress they feel from the separation and maintain the proximity of the attachment figure. They may show contradictory or odd behavior. Disorganized attachment is thought to be based on a history of frightening or confusing interactions with the caregiver, such that the child both fears and is simultaneously driven to seek connection with the parent.
An additional category "Cannot Classify" has also been developed for children whose behavioral strategies do not fit into the other four categories (Hesse, Main, Abrams, & Rifkin, 2003). Most maltreated children are classified as "disorganized" or "cannot classify", although theoretically they may fit any of the insecure categories (Van Ijzendoorn, 1992).
Adult State Of Mind With Respect To Attachment
The Berkeley Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) is a semi-structured interview for adults that probes for descriptions of past parenting relationships, eliciting specific examples from adult participants concerning the nature of their attachment relationship with their parents. Note that attachment classifications are not based on an objective assessment of the relationship, but rather are based on the manner of describing subjective memories or lack thereof. The AAI yields four main classifications:
(1) Autonomous; these adults tend to value their attachment relationships and regard them as influential. They describe them coherently without much negative affect.
(2) Dismissive; these adults tend to deny or devalue the importance and impact of the relationships they have with their caregivers. They may be excessively idealizing of the caregiver without being able to provide specific examples to support these idealizations. In general, individuals in this category may lack memories from childhood.
(3) Preoccupied; these adults are not easily able to describe their attachment history in a straight-forward way. Rather they are very much preoccupied with their past and current relationship to the primary caregiver. They may display significant negative affect and/or a lack of narrative coherence when discussing their relationships with these caregivers. Additionally, Main and Goldwyn (1998) added a preoccupied subgroup termed, "Fearfully Preoccupied with Traumatic Events" that may be particularly relevant to child maltreatment cases.
(4) Unresolved; the narratives supplied by adults in this category tend to show a certain degree of dysregulation and disorientation when attempting to describe their attachment relationships, indicating the presence of complicated, unresolved feelings regarding loss, abuse, and/or trauma in the relationship (Van Ijzendoorn, 1992). As is the case in the Strange Situation, adults with a history of maltreatment may show a dismissive, preoccupied, or unresolved stance towards attachment; with unresolved attachment statuses most closely linked to maltreatment.
Lyons-Ruth, Yellin, Melnick and Atwood (2005) recently developed an additional set of AAI codes for identifying an attachment style that has been labeled "hostile/helpless" (H/H). H/H codes are applied to the entire interview, not just the section about loss and trauma, and thus can detect attachment problems that the interviewee may not associate with loss or trauma. H/H describes individuals who give contradictory affective evaluations of past caregivers without resolution or integration (e.g., extremely negative assessment of self and caregiver along with positive evaluations of the same relationship). H/H classification has shown good discriminant validity with Unresolved and Cannot Classify codes (Lyons-Ruth et al., 2005).
Although child attachment status has been found to predict future romantic relationship functioning, attachment in childhood is measured differently than attachment in adulthood. Early life attachment and adult attachment relationships may differ in important ways, yet there are common threads (e.g., emotion regulation) that indicate these constructs are closely linked. Attachment style in infancy is updated throughout development influencing various intimate relationships throughout the lifespan (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007a). Adult attachment anxiety and avoidance is a concept typically measured through self-report (e.g., the Experiences in Close Relationships scale; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007) that assesses attachment in the context of adult romantic partnerships. Adult attachment has been empirically linked to child attachment such that secure/insecure attachment in childhood is predictive of secure/insecure attachment in adulthood (e.g., Behrens, Haltigan, Bahm, & Gribneau, 2016; Nonnenmacher, Noe, Ehrenthal, & Reck, 2016). Therefore, this literature review also considers implications of research examining mindfulness and adult attachment style.
Note that "adult attachment" and "adult state of mind with respect to attachment" are two distinct constructs; the former refers to an adult's typical attachment strategies in relationship to an adult romantic partner, while the latter refers to an adult's state of mind as they reflect on their attachment to their primary caregiver during childhood.
State Adult Attachment
State adult attachment security has been measured with the State Adult Attachment Measure (SAAM, Gillath, Hart, Noftle, & Stockdale, 2009), a self-report measure that has three subscales: attachment anxiety (e.g., "I really need to feel loved right now."), avoidance (e.g., "I would be uncomfortable having a good friend or a relationship partner close to me right now."), and security, (e.g., "I feel loved."). State adult attachment, which focuses on current attitudes towards current relationships, is distinct from the construct of adult state of mind with respect to attachment, which refers to an adult's retrospective attitudes towards their relationships with primary caregivers in the past, during childhood.
⇲ About The Author
Robin Hertz, MA is currently in the process of completing a PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oregon.