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Reassessing Attachment Theory in Child Welfare$
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Sue White, Matthew Gibson, David Wastell, and Patricia Walsh

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781447336914

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447336914.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 04 July 2022

Love is a wondrous state:1 origins and early debates

Love is a wondrous state:1 origins and early debates

(p.1) 1 Love is a wondrous state:1 origins and early debates
Reassessing Attachment Theory in Child Welfare

Sue White

Matthew Gibson

David Wastell

Patricia Walsh

Policy Press

This chapter traces the origins of attachment theory and reviews its component parts, including the seminal empirical research on animals and humans. Attachment theory, popularised during the 1940s and 1950s, is a synthesis of object relations theory and ethological developmental psychology. It suggests a symbiotic dance of nature and nurture, achieved through the ministering of the mother. It shares with object relations theory an emphasis on the infant's relationship with the ‘primary object’, but these ideas are combined with those from cognitive psychology, cybernetics (control systems theory), ethology, and evolutionary biology. The theory is thus an elegant, but pragmatic mishmash, arising from attempts to make sense of empirical, clinical observations of real children experiencing distressing separations, together with aspirations to make the world a better place for everybody by understanding the medium of love. Attachment theory as used in child welfare is generally attributed to the work of John Bowlby, James Robertson, and Mary Ainsworth. The chapter then considers the controversies that attachment theory has faced, particularly in the latter half of the 20th century.

Keywords:   attachment theory, object relations theory, ethological developmental psychology, mother–infant separation, love, child welfare, John Bowlby, James Robertson, Mary Ainsworth

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