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 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.

Alienation Antisocial Personality Disorder Borderline Personality Disorder Delusional Disorder DESTRUCTIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDER NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) PERSONALITY DISORDERS


In 1951, a researcher by the name of John Bowlby suggested that parental deprivation within the first 5 years of life would in turn affect the child‘s development in negative ways, ultimately resulting in the child becoming an ―affectionless character‖ as well as a delinquent (Bowlby, 1951; Farrington, 2007).

Bowlby also suggested that avoidantly attached children learn to express anger derived from their experiences of having unresponsive or intrusive parental figures, displacing the resulting anger at unmet needs outwardly towards their environment (Bowlby, 1973; Deklyen & Greenberg, 2008).

Between the 1960s and the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth began doing research on children‘s attachment to the adult figures in their lives. Through this research, she devised the concept of the ―secure base‖ and from this also devised three distinct attachment patterns in infants: secure attachment, avoidant attachment and anxious attachment (Bretherton, 1992).

Because of the nature of attachment, which is a direct result of a parental figure‘s interactions with the child, using the pre-established difference between sociopathy and psychopathology, it is presumed that attachment styles may have causal effect on a sociopathic outcome rather than a psychopathic outcome

Alienated children Alienation Attachment Parental Alienation PA

Attachment is controlling. Love is freeing.

When you are attached to someone, because you desire to spend so much time around them in order to feel good, you might realize that you are using controlling behavior in order to do so. For example, this shows up a lot in unhealthy attachments as one person in the relationship convincing the person they are attached to not to hang out with their friends, or their family, and instead to hang out with them, and this is where we often see a lot of manipulation. I don’t even think this manipulation is something most are aware of, but it’s there, because an attached person wants the focus on you and you only. This is really unhealthy behavior, and it shows that you are definitely not in love with them. You are trying to control someone, and you wouldn’t do this if you really cared about them and their feelings.



In this role-reversal dynamic, the following roles are identified:
  • Pathogenic parent: The parent who psychologically manipulates the child to devalue and discard the targeted parent.
  • Targeted child: The child within a family system who has been singled out for the attention of the pathogenic parent.
  • Targeted parent: The normal-range and affectionately available parent; the “victim” in the story. This is the parent who is scapegoated.

This type of parental alienation incorporates elements of Murray Bowen’s family systems theory, which is based on the dynamics between people in systems.

Bowen believed the family unit was the basic starting point for explaining human behavior.

Bowen believed the family unit was the basic starting point for explaining human behavior. His premise was that “individual behavior seemed determined less by individual choice and more by the individual’s relationship context.” He believed each family member derives their identity from their involvement within the family’s relationship system.


Attachment-based parental alienation

Attachment-based parental alienation is a complex and potentially harmful dynamic whereby a parent manipulates their children to avoid, reject, and disdain their other parent. It can be viewed as a symptom of the narcissistic paradigm and is often of clinical concern regarding the child’s healthy development.


Parental alienation may involve the following symptoms and manifestations:

  • The suppression of the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system.
  • A role-reversal relationship in which the child is being used to meet the emotional and psychological needs of a parent (the allied and favored parent).
  • Symptoms of narcissistic and/or borderline personality may also be present in the child and can also of extreme clinical concern for their healthy development.
  • Symptoms in the child can only be the product of “pathogenic parenting” practices and cannot emerge spontaneously or for unrelated mental health reasons.

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.


Types of attachment

Approximately 15% of infants in low psychosocial risk and as many as 82% of those in high-risk situations do not use any of the three organized strategies for dealing with stress and negative emotion (9). These children have disorganized attachment. One recently identified pathway to children’s disorganized attachment includes children’s exposure to specific forms of distorted parenting and unusual caregiver behaviours that are ‘atypical’ (10,11). Atypical caregiver behaviours, also referred to as “frightening, frightened, dissociated, sexualized or otherwise atypical” (10), are aberrant behaviours displayed by caregivers during interactions with their children that are not limited to when the child is distressed. There is evidence to suggest that caregivers who display atypical behaviours often have a history of unresolved mourning or unresolved emotional, physical or sexual trauma, or are otherwise traumatized (eg, post-traumatic stress disorder or the traumatized victim of domestic violence) (12).



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.