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Attachment Theory in 2007

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by NeuroPsyStudent, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. NeuroPsyStudent

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    I realize attachment theory may not be in vogue today, but I wonder if there are others who study it or who have interest in it? It is very important to my own case conceptualization, but I find little excitement for it outside of my program. As a matter of fact, I recently mentioned to a group of psychologists that I would be attending an attachment theory conference and they said, "oh that might be useful because we see some adopted kids." I just didn't have the energy or heart to explain that attachment theory applies to kids with two parents too! I think people confuse it with reactive attachment disorder.
     
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  3. MeghanHF

    MeghanHF Member

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    Wow I think attachment theory is extremely valuable in work with children and adults. This is kind of nerdy I suppose but I have a series of great attachment and intersubjectivity lectures on my ipod (wedged between Aqualung and Bach).
     
  4. psychanon

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    I have a few issues with some of the methodological issues in the attachment literature (i feel sometimes theory overshadows data), but I think attachment theory is fascinating and extremely helpful in clinical conceptualization. There are plenty of well-respected researchers who actively embrace it-- it is very much alive in 2007.
     
  5. NeuroPsyStudent

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    Yes, I agree. But do you find in this era of EBT's that no one really talks about attachment theory? It is certainly alive in psychodynamic enclaves, but in the larger psychology community (and particularly in hyper-EBT circles) it is considered an oddity.

    What Bach, btw?
     
  6. MeghanHF

    MeghanHF Member

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    You're right, attachment is not talked about as much in hyper-EBT circles and one thought is it may not conform well to the kind of research and technique used in those circles. There is however a great deal of respectable attachment research happening and I think in a few years the evidence-base for it will be there to support it.

    Goldberg Variations and Brandenburg Concertos
     
  7. Shrinkydink

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    I was delighted to see this topic on SDN! I too find attachment theory extremely useful in work across the lifespan (and to respond to NeuroPsyStudent's original question, I'm studying it too--for my dissertation).

    Interestingly, I feel like attachment theory is actually gaining considerable respect/interest *within* the psychodynamic community, as it's an area that lends itself to psychodynamically-based research. I agree though that it doesn't seem to mesh with the kinds of methods and findings that EBT folks tend to value.

    MeghanHF, can I ask where/how you got those lectures? Sounds fascinating (if not ideal for the treadmill...)!
     
  8. Shrinkydink

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    Forgot to respond to this part--I find this to be the case too, that people tend to think of reactive attachment d/o when they hear "attachment."
     
  9. NeuroPsyStudent

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    Oh cool. I like #4 and 5 the best.
     
  10. NeuroPsyStudent

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    Here is an example of my point. Bruce Pennington's celebrated book "The Development of Psychopathology" is, obviously, a developmentally focused book. In this 2002 publication of more than 350 pages he writes less than one paragraph about attachment theory:

    "There has also been considerbale research on the social effects of having a depressed caregive, much of it based on attachment theory. There is indeed considerable evidence that parent-child interactions are compromised when a parent is depressed. For instance, in familieis with a depressed parent, there is more parental discord and parental hostility directed toward children. In interaction with their infacts, depressed mothers exhibit less positive affect, and are more critical and less attuned than are nondepressed mothers. Attachment theory posits that both self-concept and models for interpersoanl interactions are based on early interactions with a primary caregiver. Thus, both of theses factors are hypothesized to be altered in a permanent way when children interact with a depressed caregiver, thereby increasing the risk for depression. However, as plausible as this pathway to depression may be, there is not yet direct causal evidence for it. Children of depressed parents are undoubtedly at greater risk for depression, but some of that increased risk is mediated genetically. We need genetically sensitive designs, such as adoption studies, to measure depressed parents' social transmission of depression. Moreover, the environmental risk posed by a depressed parent may operate in ways other than changing the attachment relation, such as by increasing stress..."

    Sorry for that long quote, but in the context of an entire book on the development of psychopathology, it is really embarassingly short. Where is the work of the 30 year Minnesota Study with Sroufe's contributions based largely on attachment assessments? I know the summary book of Minnesota Study had not yet been published, but many studies had been.

    Sometimes I feel very lonely in this contemporary world of EBTs, CBT, and hyper-focus on genetics. Yes, it is so much more "clean" and "tidy" to ignore stuff like attachment, object relations, internal working models, and interpersonal development, but we miss the person. For example, the Pennington quote above only refers to depression. People today have anxiety or depression. Very few clinicians want to nuance those descriptions. Each diagnosis has appropriate EBTs and medications, so why should we understand more about a person's problems than that label? Attachment theory nuances our understandings of patients. The pendulum has swung too much after the rebellion against psychodynamics in the 60s/70s.
     
  11. RayneeDeigh

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    My thesis was about attachment theory but in terms of romantic relationships rather than child attachment. Does that count? lol
     
  12. MeghanHF

    MeghanHF Member

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    I totally agree and would take it a step farther...without a nuanced and informed understanding of patients' symptoms, personality dynamics and attachment styles, psychs can (and do frequently) misdiagnose and mis-apply appropriate EBTs and meds. Two patients with the same DSM-IV diagnosis of depression may have travelled very different paths to arrive at the point where they are noted to be depressed, having feelings of helplessnes, and showing poor self-esteem. Moreover they may manifest their depression and react to interventions very differently according to their unique personality structure and other comorbid conditions. Much EBT research focuses on a single diagnostic category, which is great if you practice in some alternate reality where your patients suffer from only one thing and no one has a personality disorder or if they do, they don't have a co-occuring Axis-I disorder. I can't say that has been my experience.

    I'm all for evidence based practice and believe we should systematically evaluate our theories and interventions. But we also need to critically evaluate our modes of research, make sure what we consider evidence is applicable to what we do (which may not fit so neetly into the hand of managed care as much "EBT" research does but then that could be a whole other thread).
     
  13. MeghanHF

    MeghanHF Member

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    If anyone is interested in the lectures, pm me.
     
  14. NeuroPsyStudent

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    Thanks, Meghan, for the great post. I have the sense that attachment theory gets lost in divisions between CBT and psychodynamic workers. CBT claims the empirical base and psychodynamic clinicians/researchers are finally starting to join in (and successfully so). Attachment theory gets lost in the shuffle. There are a few researchers working with attachment (and the neurobiology of attachment), but there is little major dialogue about it in clinical research circles. Another problem is that some of the most famous psychodynamic attachment researchers come off as empirically soft. The more complex models of research that aim to model human suffering in a multi-dimensional fashion are difficult, and also not understood by the simple-minded majority. As you noted, most studies look for pure cases (no comorbidity).

    Who are some great researchers to watch? I am not in the therapy world, so any ideas would be helpful.
     
  15. Shrinkydink

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    There's an upcoming conference on attachment in Boston in May that features some big names (though certainly not all of them)--here's the link, if you're interested. Wish I could go!

    http://www.challiance.org/internal_links/psyc_cme/attachment_07.pdf
     
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  17. RayneeDeigh

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    *shameless self-promotion*

    My advisor, a grad student who's been helping me, and myself are going to try to get my undergrad thesis on attachment in romantic relationships published. The two of them are going to run some more studies while I'm away at grad school and hopefully they'll continue to find some interesting things.
     

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