Criticism of Attachment Theory

Which flaws in Bowlby’s and Ainsworth’s empirical,conceptual, and theoretical work have attachment scholars acknowledged and decided to reject or to modify? And, what is attachment theory today?

Vicedo, Marga. (2018). On the history, present, and future of attachment theory. Reply to Robbie Duschinsky, Marinus van IJzendoorn, Sarah Foster, Sophie Reijman & Francesca Lionetti ‘attachment histories and futures.’. European Journal of Developmental Psychology. 17. 1-9. 10.1080/17405629.2018.1502920.

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Attachment theory has received many criticisms over the last several decades.

Thompson, R. A. (2017). Twenty-First century attachment theory: Challenges andopportunities. In H. Keller & K. A. Bard (Eds.), The cultural nature of attachment(pp. 301–319). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

At first sight it seems curious that many hostile academic discussions of attachment research, such as those of Vicedo (Chapter 1) and anthropologist critics (Chapter 2), possess the same three qualities: they mistake technical for ordinary language (e.g. regarding the
meaning of ‘sensitivity’); recent attachment research is ignored in favour of classic statements by Bowlby; and the findings of meta analyses are neglected. However, these qualities are less mysterious in light of Keller’s reflection (Chapter 2) that such critiques of attachment research are, at least in part, a proxy for criticism of the uses of attachment discourse in child welfare contexts.

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