By Colin Murray Parkes

To provide an explanation for and comprehend the styles that attachment play in psychiatric and social difficulties a physique of data has sprung up which owes a lot to the pioneering paintings of the overdue John Bowlby. This booklet attracts jointly fresh theoretical contributions, examine findings and scientific information from psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and ethologists from Britain, the US and Europe.

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However, it is reasonable to suppose that a major shift in functioning may take place at about this phase of the life cycle, when children are expected to begin in earnest to assume some of the responsibilities of adulthood – be these attending school in order to learn the knowledge and skills needed to function eventually as successful adults or, in non-literate societies, acquiring appropriate knowledge and skills through apprenticeship. It seems certain that another major shift takes place with the onset of adolescence, ushered in by hormonal changes.

Such women may be primed to bond to their infants even under difficult circumstances. We talk of the bond of a mother to her child. This usage is tacitly in agreement with those who hold that this is not an attachment because a mother does not normally base her security on her relationship with her child, however eager she may be to give care and nurturance. However, despite recent research into mother–infant bonding we still know remarkably little about the processes involved in the formation and maintenance of the bond, or even of the criteria that mark its establishment.

The therapeutic relationship is a case in point. It may be very influential for a limited period in a person’s life, but when therapy has been terminated the active relationship usually ceases. To be sure, the therapist and his or her influence may continue to be valued, and the representational model of the relationship may persist. However, may the attachment to a surrogate figure be said to continue, even though the active connection has ceased, and all that remains is the representational model?

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