THE ORIGINS OF ATTACHMENT THEORY: JOHN BOWLBY AND MARY AINSWORTH
作者: INGE BRETHERTON / 13655次阅读 时间: 2013年11月08日
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ATTACHMENT THEORY AND MENTAL REPRESENTATION

Separation (Bowlby, 1973) and Loss (Bowlby, 1980a), the second and third volumes in Bowlby’s attachment trilogy, were slower to make an impact on the field of developmental psychology than the first volume, in part because relevant empirical studies lagged behind. Like Attachment, these two volumes cover much more theoretical ground that their titles imply.

Separation

In this book, Bowlby (1973) revises Freud’s (1926/1959) theory of signal anxiety, lays out a new approach to Freud’s (1923/1961, 1940/1964) motivational theories, and presents an epigenetic model of personality development inspired by Waddington’s (1957) theory of developmental pathways.

Elaborating on his seminal 1959 paper, Bowlby notes that two distinct sets of stimuli elicit fear in children: the presence of unlearned and later of culturally acquired clues to danger and/or the absence of an attachment figure. Although escape from danger and escape to an attachment figure commonly occur together, the two classes of behavior are governed by separate control systems (observable when a ferocious dog comes between a mother and her young child.

Although Bowlby regarded the systems controlling escape and attachment as conceptually distinct, he considers both as members of a larger family of stress-reducing and safety-promoting behavioral systems, whose more general function is that of maintaining an organism within a defined relationship to his or her environment. Rather than striving for stimulus absence, as Freud had suggested, Bowlby posits that humans are motivated to maintain a dynamic balance betweenfamiliarity-preserving, stress-reducing behaviors (attachment to protective individuals and to familiar home sites, retreat from the strange and novel) and antithetical exploratory and information-seeking behaviors.

After revising Freud’s theories of fear and motivation, Bowlby reexamined Freud’s concept of the “inner world” in light of modern cognitive theory. In Separation, he expands ideas proposed in Attachment by suggesting that, within an individual’s internal working model of the world, working models of self and attachment figure are especially salient. These working models, acquired through interpersonal interaction patterns, are complementary. If the attachment figure has acknowledged the infant’s needs fur comfort and protection while simultaneously respecting the infant’s need for independent exploration of the environment, the child is likely to develop an internal working model of self as valued and reliable. Conversely, if the parent has frequently rejected the infant’s bids for comfort or for exploration, the child is likely to construct an internal working model of self as unworthy or incompetent. With the aid of working models, children predict the attachment figure’s likely behavior and plan their own responses. What type of model they construct is therefore of great consequence.

In Separation, Bowlby also elucidates the role of internal working models in the intergenerational transmission of attachment patterns. Individuals who grow up to become relatively stable and self-reliant, he postulates, normally have parents who are supportive when called upon, hut who also permit and encourage autonomy. Such parents tend not only to engage in fairly frank communication of their own working models of self, of their child, and of others, hut also indicate to the child that these working models are open to questioning and revision. For this reason, says Bowlby, the inheritance of mental health and of ill health through family micro-culture is no less important, and may well he far more important, than is genetic inheritance (Bowlby, 973, p. 323).

Loss

In the third volume of the attachment trilogy, Bowlby (1980a) uses information-processing theories to explain the increasing stability of internal working models as well as their defensive distortion. The stability of internal working models derives from two sources: (a) patterns of interacting grow less accessible to awareness as they become habitual and automatic, and (b) dyadic patterns of relating are more resistant to change than individual patterns because ofreciprocal expectancies.

Given that old patterns of action and thought guide selective attention and information processing in new situations, some distortion of incoming information is normal and unavoidable. The adequacy of internal working models can be seriously undermined, however, when defensive exclusion of information from awareness interferes with their updating in response to developmental and environmental change.

To explain the workings of defensive processes, Bowlby cites evidence showing that incoming information normally undergoes many stages of processing before reaching awareness (see Dixon, 1971; Erdelyi, 1974) At every stage, some information is retained for further processing and the remainder discarded. That this may happen even after information has already undergone very advanced levels of encoding is shown by dichotic listening studies, In these studies, individuals who are presented with different messages to each ear through headphones are able to selectively attend to one of them. That the unattended message is nevertheless receiving high level processing becomes obvious when the person becomes alerted to a word of personal significance (e.g., the person’s name) that has been inserted into the unattended message.

Bowlby proposes that defensive exclusion of information from awareness derives from the same processes as selective exclusion, although the motivation for the two types of exclusion differs. Three situations are believed to render children particularly prone to engaging in defensive exclusion: situations that parents do not wish their children to know about even though the children have witnessed them, situations in which the children find the parents’ behavior too unbearable to think about, and situations in which children have done or thought about doing something of which they are deeply ashamed.

Although defensive exclusion protects the individual from experiencing unbearable mental pain, confusion, or conflict, it is hound to interfere with the accommodation of internal working models to external reality. Indeed, a number of clinical studies reviewed in Separation (e.g., Cain & Fast, 1972) suggest that defensive exclusion leads to a split in internal working models. One set of working models- accessible to awareness and discussion and based on what a child has been told-represents the parent as good and the parent’s rejecting behavior as caused by the “badness”of the child, The other model, based on what the child has experienced but defensively excluded from awareness, represents the hated or disappointing side of the parent.

In Loss, Bowlby attempts to shed further light on these repressive and dissociative phenomena with the aid of Tulving’s (1972) distinction between episodic and semantic memory. According to Tulving, autobiographical experience is encoded in episodic memory, whereas generic propositions are stored in semantic memory, with each memory system possibly using distinct storage mechanisms. Generic knowledge may derive from information supplied by others and from actual experience. Bowlby surmises that severe psychic conflict is likely to arise when the two sources of stored information (generalizations built on actual experience and on communications from others) are highly contradictory. In such cases, defensive exclusion may be brought to bear on episodic memories of actual experience. According to Bowlby, such processes are especially likely in bereaved children under 3 years of age.

Finally, in Loss, Bowlby also considers a more complex related prob1cm, namely, the control of simultaneously active behavioral systems. In Attachment and Separation, the interplay among behavioral systems was implicitly treated as one of competition, not higher level regulation (see also Bretherton & Ainsworth, 1974). In Loss, Bowlby posits an executive structure that takes the place of Freud’s (1923/1961) concept of ego. The central nervous system, Bowlby suggests, is organized in a loosely hierarchical way, with an enormous network of two-way communications among subsystems. At the top of the hierarchy, he posits one or perhaps several principal evaluators or controllers, closely linked to long-term memory. Their task is to scan incoming information for relevance. If evaluated as relevant, it may be stored in short-term memory to select aspects thereof for further processing.

Conscious processing is likely to facilitate high-level activities such as categorizing, retrieving, comparing, framing plans, and inspection of overlearned, automated action systems. In a unified personality, Bowlby claims, the principal system or systems can access all memories in whatever type of storage they are held. However, in some cases, the principal system or systems may nor be unified or capable of unimpeded intercommunication with all subsystems. In this case, particular behavioral systems may not he activated when appropriate, or signals from these behavioral systems may not become conscious, although fragments of defensively excludedinformation may at times seep through.

Some of the dissociative or repressive phenomena involved in the deactivation of the attachment system occur during pathological mourning. For example, complete or partial disconnection of an emotional response from its cause is frequent. When the disconnection is only partial, emotional responses may be directed away from the person who caused them to third persons or to the self. I knee, a bereaved person may become morbidly preoccupied with personal reactions and sufferings, rather than attributing his or her feelings to the loss of a close relationship. Similarly, in disordered mourning, a bereaved person’s disposition toward compulsive caregiving may derive from the redirection of attachment behavior. The individual may he taking the role of attachment figure instead of seeking care.

Attachment and Therapy

This discussion of defensive processes leads into the topic that preoccupied Bowlby during the last 10 years of his life: the uses of attachment theory in psychotherapy (Bowlby, 1988), Under attachment theory, a major goal in psychotherapy is the reappraisal of inadequate, outdated working models of self in relation to attachment figures, a particularly difficult task if important others, especially parents, have forbidden their review. As psychoanalysts have repeatedly noted, a person with inadequate, rigid working models of attachment relations is likely to inappropriately impose these models on interactions with the therapist (a phenomenon known as transference). The joint task 0 f therapist and client is to understand the origins of the client’s dysfunctional internal working models of self and attachment figures, Toward this end, the therapist can be most helpful by serving as a reliable, secure base from which an individual can begin the arduous task of exploring and reworking his or her internal working models.www.psychspace.com心理学空间网

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