Q & A – What is Attachment Theory

Attachment theory is a psychological framework that focuses on the relationships we form with others, particularly in childhood. It suggests that our early attachment experiences shape our ability to form healthy relationships later in life, and that these relationships can have a significant impact on our emotional and psychological wellbeing.

When it comes to grief and trauma, attachment theory can help us understand how these experiences can affect our attachment patterns and relationships. For example, if someone experiences a traumatic event that disrupts their sense of safety and security, they may develop an insecure attachment style that makes it difficult for them to trust others or form close relationships. Similarly, if someone experiences the loss of a loved one, they may experience intense feelings of separation anxiety and may struggle to cope with the loss.

Attachment theory can also provide guidance for how to support individuals who are grieving or experiencing trauma. For example, it suggests that providing a safe and secure environment, offering emotional support, and helping individuals process their emotions can all be helpful in promoting healing and resilience.

Overall, attachment theory provides a valuable framework for understanding the complex interplay between relationships, emotions, and wellbeing in the context of grief and trauma.

©Linda Turner 2023


EMOTIONAL ABUSE Hostile Aggressive Parenting Pathogenic Parenting

Q & A – What is the treatment of attachment-based parental alienation

The treatment of attachment-based parental alienation (AB-PA) typically involves a combination of interventions aimed at repairing the damaged attachment between the targeted parent and the child, and addressing the underlying dynamics and behaviors that led to the alienation.

Here are some common treatment approaches for AB-PA:

  1. Family therapy: Family therapy can be effective in addressing the underlying dynamics and conflicts that led to the alienation. This may involve sessions with both parents and the child, where the therapist helps the family to explore their feelings and communication patterns, and develop strategies for improving their relationships.
  2. Parent education and coaching: Education and coaching for the parent who is engaging in the alienation behaviors can be helpful in promoting more positive interactions with the targeted parent and reducing the negative impact on the child. This may involve training in effective communication skills, conflict resolution, and co-parenting strategies.
  3. Reunification therapy: Reunification therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on repairing the relationship between the targeted parent and the child. This may involve individual sessions with the child and the targeted parent, as well as joint sessions with both parents and the child.
  4. Legal interventions: In some cases, legal interventions may be necessary to protect the child’s best interests and promote their healthy development. This may include court orders for parenting time, custody evaluations, and other legal remedies.

It is important to note that the treatment of AB-PA can be complex and challenging, and requires a multidisciplinary approach involving mental health professionals, legal experts, and other professionals. The success of the treatment depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the alienation, the willingness of both parents to participate in treatment, and the availability of resources and support for the family.

©Linda Turner 2023

EMOTIONAL ABUSE Hostile Aggressive Parenting PARENTAL ALIENATION Pathogenic Parenting

Q & A – Attachment based parental alienation

Attachment-based parental alienation (AB-PA) is a theory that attempts to explain how parental alienation can occur in the context of high-conflict divorce and child custody cases. This theory suggests that a child’s rejection of one parent and alignment with the other parent is due to the manipulation and coercion of the aligned parent, who uses a variety of psychological techniques to influence the child’s attitudes and beliefs about the other parent.

According to AB-PA, parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse that occurs when a parent intentionally undermines the child’s attachment to the other parent, which can result in long-term emotional and psychological harm to the child. The theory proposes that the aligned parent uses a number of strategies to create a false narrative about the other parent, such as portraying the other parent as unsafe or unloving, or blaming them for the divorce or separation.

AB-PA also suggests that this process of parental alienation can be identified and treated through a structured, evidence-based intervention that focuses on repairing the child’s damaged attachment to the targeted parent. The intervention may involve therapy sessions with both parents and the child, as well as education and training for the parent who is engaging in the alienation behaviors.

It is important to note that AB-PA is a controversial theory that has not been widely accepted by the mental health community. Some experts have criticized the theory for being overly simplistic and lacking empirical support, and have raised concerns about the potential harm that could result from using this theory in legal and custody proceedings. It is recommended that mental health professionals use caution when applying this theory to individual cases, and that they rely on well-established principles of child development, attachment theory, and evidence-based interventions when working with families involved in high-conflict divorce and custody cases.Regenerate response

©Linda Turner 2023


Q & A – Attachment

Attachment is the emotional bond between two people. It is a deep and enduring emotional connection that forms between two people over time. Attachment styles are the way in which people interact and respond to others in relationships.

Secure attachment is a type of attachment style in which an individual feels secure and comfortable in their relationships. They are able to trust and rely on their partner, and they feel safe and secure in their relationship.

Avoidant attachment is a type of attachment style in which an individual avoids forming close emotional bonds with others. People with an avoidant attachment style often have difficulty trusting and relying on others, and may be uncomfortable with physical and emotional closeness. They may also be overly independent and self-reliant, and may have difficulty expressing their emotions.

Anxious attachment is a type of attachment style in which an individual has a strong desire for closeness and intimacy with their partner, but also has a fear of being rejected or abandoned. Individuals with anxious attachment often worry about their relationships and may be overly clingy or dependent on their partner. They may also have difficulty trusting their partner and may be overly sensitive to criticism or perceived rejection.


Attachment Styles

For readers unfamiliar with the theory, attachment styles are patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that maximize our abilities to establish and maintain connections to our significant others. In childhood, they are adaptations that enable children to adjust to whatever parental conditions they are born into.

  1. Secure Attachment. If parents are consistent, available, and responsive, their children need to do little to maintain security in their parental relationships. Their secure attachment styles enable them to connect easily, to accurately perceive and react to other people, and to control their emotions and behaviors in healthy ways.
  2. Avoidant Attachment. When parents are rejecting of a child’s need for closeness and reassurance, the child will learn to deny their own negative emotions and needs for close relationships. They will maximize their feelings of security in their parental relationships by developing avoidant attachment styles (also called “dismissing” among adults) and getting parental approval by winning at things like academics and sports and acting self-assured and confident.
  3. Anxious Attachment. When parents are inconsistent in dealing with their children—sometimes warm and loving and at other times cold and rejecting—the children will cope by learning to carefully monitor the parents’ moods so that they can feel secure by heading off rejection before it happens. These children develop anxious attachment styles (also called “preoccupied” among adults) so that they can remain on guard for any signs of rejection. They try to stay as close as possible to their loved ones, don’t like to let go, and have a hard time dealing with loss, especially if they cannot make sense of why the loss happened.
  4. Disorganized Attachment. When parents are frightened (traumatized, victimized, terrorized) or frightening (bullying, abusive, rageful), children will not be able to develop organized ways of coping or adapting. The environment is too unpredictable, so they develop “disorganized” attachment styles (called “fearful” among adults). One system of measuring attachment styles, the Adult Attachment Interview, calls this style “unresolved” in relation to loss and trauma. These individuals have a hard time dealing with losses later in life because they were never able to effectively resolve losses earlier in their lives. This is similar to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), in which the greatest predictor of developing the disorder after a trauma in adulthood is having unresolved traumas earlier in life.


The Dissociative Continuum

In the face of persisting threat, the infant or young child will activate other
neurophysiological and functional responses. This involves activation of dissociative adaptations.

Dissociation is a broad descriptive term that includes a variety of mental mechanism involved in disengaging from the external world and attending to stimuli in the internal world. This can involve distraction, avoidance, numbing, daydreaming, fugue, fantasy, derealization, depersonalization and, in the extreme, fainting or catatonia.

In our experiences with young children and infants, the predominant adaptive responses during the trauma are dissociative.

Children exposed to chronic violence may report a variety of dissociative experiences.
Children describe going to a ‘different place’, assuming the persona of superheroes or animals, a sense of ‘watching a movie that I was in’ or ‘just floating’ – classic depersonalization and derealization responses. Observers will report these children as numb, robotic, non-reactive, “day dreaming”, “acting like he was not there”, staring off in a glazed look.

Younger children are more likely to use dissociative adaptations. Immobilization, inescapability or pain will increase the dissociative components of the stress response patterns at any age.



Parents play many different roles in the lives of their children, including teacher, playmate, disciplinarian, caregiver and attachment figure. Of all these roles, their role as an attachment figure is one of the most important in predicting the child’s later social and emotional outcome (13).

Attachment is one specific and circumscribed aspect of the relationship between a child and caregiver that is involved with making the child safe, secure and protected (4). The purpose of attachment is not to play with or entertain the child (this would be the role of the parent as a playmate), feed the child (this would be the role of the parent as a caregiver), set limits for the child (this would be the role of the parent as a disciplinarian) or teach the child new skills (this would be the role of the parent as a teacher). Attachment is where the child uses the primary caregiver as a secure base from which to explore and, when necessary, as a haven of safety and a source of comfort (5).

Attachment is not ‘bonding’. ‘Bonding’ was a concept developed by Klaus and Kennell (6) who implied that parent-child ‘bonding’ depended on skin-to-skin contact during an early critical period. This concept of ‘bonding’ was proven to be erroneous and to have nothing to do with attachment. Unfortunately, many professionals and nonprofessionals continue to use the terms ‘attachment’ and ‘bonding’ interchangeably. When asked what ‘secure attachment’ looks like, many professionals and nonprofessionals describe a ‘picture’ of a contented six-month-old infant being breastfed by their mother who is in a contented mood; they also often erroneously imply that breastfeeding per se promotes secure attachment. Others picture ‘secure attachment’ between a nine-year-old boy and his father as the father and son throw a ball in the backyard, go on a fishing trip or engage in some other activity. Unfortunately, these ‘pictures’ have little, if anything, to do with attachment, they are involved with other parental roles (eg, their role as a caregiver in the case of the breastfeeding mother and as a playmate in the case of the father and son playing catch in the backyard). One might ask why the distinction between attachment and ‘bonding’ matters. The answer may lie in the fact that ‘bonding’ has not been shown to predict any aspect of child outcome, whereas attachment is a powerful predictor of a child’s later social and emotional outcome.

Alienation Attachment

Attachment Theory and Parental Alienation | Ludwig Lowenstein –

 Following an acrimonious divorce or separation, arguments are  frequently presented as to why a child should not be with a non-resident parent. The custodial parent, whether a father or amother, uses the concept of a child being attached to himself or herself and therefore this should prevent the child from having actual or reasonable contact with the absent parent. This view is based on antagonism between the former partners rather than the importance of the attachment theory being relevant. The attach-ment theory is also used to discredit the intentions of the noncusto-dial parent. This is especially the case for the younger child. Witholder children this is not likely to be as relevant. The history of the development of the attachment theory commencing with Bowlby and Ainsworth is presented, and the counterarguments are also presented. Attachment to the mother is obviously important initially but attachment to the father is equally important to the child and such bonding is likely to lead to positive emotional and behavioral development. It is therefore argued that both fathers and mothers have an important role to play and are, or should be,responsible for the rearing of children. The acrimony between the couple should not be considered as relevant as it is, in fact, the real reason why attachment theory is used against a nonresident parent


The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation

The DynamicMaturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) emphasizes the dynamic interaction of the maturation of the human organism, across the life-span, with the contexts in which maturational possibilities are used to protect the self, reproduce, and protect one’s progeny.

Overview of the DMM

The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) emphasizes the dynamic interaction of the maturation of the human organism, across the life-span, with the contexts in which maturational possibilities are used to protect the self, reproduce, and protect one’s progeny.

  • Maturation is both neurological/mental and also physical.
  • Maturation involves both the increase in potential during childhood and adulthood and also the ultimate decrease in potential in old age.
  • Contexts include both the people and places that affect development, e.g., family, school.
  • Context also includes the intra-and-interpersonal challenges of different periods of the life-span, including:
    • Infancy: The parents mediate the effect of the context upon the infant, including risk to the infant.
    • Preschool: learning safe forms of self-reliance for short periods of time;
    • School-age: establishing symmetrical attachments with best friends while concurrently maintaining affiliative peer relationships;
    • Adolescence: transforming best friend attachments into romantic, reciprocal attachments with a sexual component;
    • Adulthood: establishing (1) symmetrical and reciprocal spousal attachments that foster both partners’ development, (2) the nurturance of children in non-reciprocal, and (3) non-symmetrical attachment relationships in which the adult is the attachment figure;
    • Aging: attachments in later life when the adult is becoming less physically and mentally competent and in need of protection once again.


I think it is absolutely essential that social workers have a basic understanding of attachment theory and the importance of the early relationship between baby and mother (again used as shorthand) from the first moments of birth, and even in utero as there is evidence that babies can be adversely affected if there is tension, hostility, domestic violence etc., and how this insecure attachment pattern will affect the children as they grow through the ages and stages of childhood. They need to understand that attachment patterns are secure or insecure/anxious, not “strong” or any of the other adjectives that are often used. However it is only by observing the interaction between the mother and child that can demonstrate the attachment pattern. Having said that, great care should be taken not to jump to conclusions, and indeed I don’t think it fair that social workers should be expected to determine the exact attachment pattern between mother and child. This is more the work of clinical psychologists and play therapists, often working collaboratively.

The other important point is that LAs should make it a priority to ensure that all prospective and approved foster carers and adopters are given the opportunity to learn about attachment theory and practice. These children with insecure attachment patterns, or an attachment disorder are going to be in their care, and it can only be positive for them to have an understanding of the reasons for the child’s often difficult and challenging behaviour.

Adopters need to know that “love is not enough” (a commonly held view, and not unreasonable) but the child who has an insecure/anxious attachment with his mother, or an attachment disorder is going to prove a huge challenge for the adopters, especially in the case of the attachment disordered child. Indeed these children should be able to receive play therapy and the adopters should be assisted/guided by the therapist as to the best way of caring for the child, to enable the adverse effects of his early life to be minimised, and for him to begin to feel loved and valued for who he is, and that love and care is not conditional. There is no “quick fix” and sadly LAs are so cash strapped that they are highly unlikely to pay for play therapists. Some LAs have clinical psychologists who are able to offer training on attachment to social workers, managers, foster carers and adopters.

Many foster carers and adopters in the LA in which I worked said that it was “like the scales falling from their eyes” as they recognised the child who was insecurely attached to his mother, and the behaviours that were manifested as a result. Many of them went on to read and study the topic further and in turn were able to share their knowledge with other foster carers and adopters.