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Concept: Attachment theory


This study investigated relationships between attachment insecurity, maladaptive cognitive schemas, and various types of psychopathological symptoms in a sample of clinically referred adolescents (N = 82). A mediation model was tested in which maladaptive schemas operated as mediators in the relations between indices of attachment quality and conduct, peer, and emotional problems. Results revealed partial support for the hypothesized mediation effect: the schema domain of disconnection/rejection acted as a mediator in the links between insecure attachment and peer problems and emotional problems. Further analysis of these effects revealed that different types of maladaptive schemas were involved in both types of psychopathology. Altogether, findings suggest that treatment of adolescent psychological problems may need to target the improvement of attachment relationships with peers and parents and the correction of underlying cognitive schemas.

Concepts: Psychology, Adolescence, Psychiatry, Attachment theory, Mediation, Peer group, Family therapy, John Bowlby


Despite the increasing interest in twin studies and the stunning amount of research on face recognition, the ability of adult identical twins to discriminate their own faces from those of their co-twins has been scarcely investigated. One’s own face is the most distinctive feature of the bodily self, and people typically show a clear advantage in recognizing their own face even more than other very familiar identities. Given the very high level of resemblance of their faces, monozygotic twins represent a unique model for exploring self-face processing. Herein we examined the ability of monozygotic twins to distinguish their own face from the face of their co-twin and of a highly familiar individual. Results show that twins equally recognize their own face and their twin’s face. This lack of self-face advantage was negatively predicted by how much they felt physically similar to their co-twin and by their anxious or avoidant attachment style. We speculate that in monozygotic twins, the visual representation of the self-face overlaps with that of the co-twin. Thus, to distinguish the self from the co-twin, monozygotic twins have to rely much more than control participants on the multisensory integration processes upon which the sense of bodily self is based. Moreover, in keeping with the notion that attachment style influences perception of self and significant others, we propose that the observed self/co-twin confusion may depend upon insecure attachment.

Concepts: Twin, Twins, Zygote, Attachment theory, Monozygotic, Attachment in adults, Cândido Godói


Human-like modes of communication, including mutual gaze, in dogs may have been acquired during domestication with humans. We show that gazing behavior from dogs, but not wolves, increased urinary oxytocin concentrations in owners, which consequently facilitated owners' affiliation and increased oxytocin concentration in dogs. Further, nasally administered oxytocin increased gazing behavior in dogs, which in turn increased urinary oxytocin concentrations in owners. These findings support the existence of an interspecies oxytocin-mediated positive loop facilitated and modulated by gazing, which may have supported the coevolution of human-dog bonding by engaging common modes of communicating social attachment.

Concepts: Psychology, Concentration, Sociology, Bond, Communication, Attachment theory, Support, Gray Wolf


Recent research suggests that romantic kissing may be utilized in human sexual relationships to evaluate aspects of a potential mate’s suitability, to mediate feelings of attachment between pair-bonded individuals, or to facilitate arousal and initiate sexual relations. This study explored these potential functions of romantic kissing by examining attitudes towards the importance of kissing in the context of various human mating situations. The study involved an international online questionnaire, which was completed by 308 male and 594 female participants aged 18-63 years. Support was found for the hypothesis that kissing serves a useful mate-assessment function: women, high mate-value participants, and participants high in sociosexual orientation placed greater importance on kissing in romantic relationships and stated that an initial kiss was more likely to affect their attraction to a potential mate than did men, low-mate value participants or low sociosexual orientation participants. Kissing also seemed to be utilized in the mediation of pair-bond attachments: kissing was seen to be more important at established stages of relationships by low sociosexual participants, kissing was generally seen as more important in long-term relationship contexts (but particularly so by women), and kissing frequency was found to be related to relationship satisfaction. The findings of this research showed very little evidence to support the hypothesis that the primary function of kissing is to elevate levels of arousal.

Concepts: Psychology, Sexual intercourse, Interpersonal relationship, Human sexual behavior, Human sexuality, Attachment theory, Sexual arousal, Intimate relationship


Disorganized/Disoriented (D) attachment has seen widespread interest from policy makers, practitioners, and clinicians in recent years. However, some of this interest seems to have been based on some false assumptions that (1) attachment measures can be used as definitive assessments of the individual in forensic/child protection settings and that disorganized attachment (2) reliably indicates child maltreatment, (3) is a strong predictor of pathology, and (4) represents a fixed or static “trait” of the child, impervious to development or help. This paper summarizes the evidence showing that these four assumptions are false and misleading. The paper reviews what is known about disorganized infant attachment and clarifies the implications of the classification for clinical and welfare practice with children. In particular, the difference between disorganized attachment and attachment disorder is examined, and a strong case is made for the value of attachment theory for supportive work with families and for the development and evaluation of evidence-based caregiving interventions.

Concepts: Evaluation, Developmental psychology, Policy, Human development, Attachment theory, Family therapy, Attachment measures, John Bowlby


Social support is crucial for psychological and physical well-being. Yet, in experimental and clinical pain research, the presence of others has been found to both attenuate and intensify pain. To investigate the factors underlying these mixed effects, we administered noxious laser stimuli to 39 healthy women while their romantic partner was present or absent, and measured pain ratings and laser-evoked potentials to assess the effects of partner presence on subjective pain experience and underlying neural processes. Further, we examined whether individual differences in adult attachment style, alone or in interaction with the partner’s level of attentional focus (manipulated to be either on or away from the participant) might modulate these effects. We found that the effects of partner presence versus absence on pain-related measures depended on adult attachment style but not partner attentional focus. The higher participants' attachment avoidance, the higher pain ratings and N2 and P2 local peak amplitudes were in the presence compared to the absence of the romantic partner. As laser-evoked potentials are thought to reflect activity relating to the salience of events, our data suggest that partner presence may influence the perceived salience of events threatening the body, particularly in individuals who tend to mistrust others.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Mind, Developmental psychology, Attachment theory, Family therapy, Absenteeism, Attachment in adults


This cross-sectional, dyadic questionnaire study examined the contribution of romantic attachment and responsive caregiving to parenting style, investigating both gender and partner effects. One hundred and twenty-five couples with children aged 7 to 8 years completed measures of attachment styles, responsive caregiving toward partner, and parenting styles. Structural Equation Modeling was used to examine the intra- and interpersonal associations between romantic attachment, caregiving responsiveness, and parenting styles. Attachment avoidance and anxiety were both negatively associated with responsive caregiving to partner, which in turn was positively associated with authoritative (optimal) parenting styles and negatively associated with authoritarian and permissive (nonoptimal) parenting styles. Responsive caregiving mediated all links between attachment and parenting, with an additional direct association between attachment anxiety and nonoptimal parenting styles that was not explained by caregiving responsiveness. Findings are discussed with reference to attachment theory.

Concepts: Developmental psychology, Parenting, Love, Attachment theory, Attachment in adults, Attachment measures, Attachment parenting, John Bowlby


Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of interest in clinical applications of attachment theory. In the present article, we briefly describe John Bowlby’s model of therapeutic change, the therapeutic relationship, and the therapist’s role in emotional healing. We then review empirical evidence for three key propositions in Bowlby’s model. First, a client’s sense of security during therapy is crucial for facilitating therapeutic work. Second, a therapist’s own sense of security contributes to positive therapeutic outcomes. Third, attachment insecurities can be effectively reduced in therapy, and movement toward greater attachment security is central to achieving favorable therapeutic outcomes. In sum, research evidence confirms the importance of establishing what Bowlby called a safe haven and a secure base within a therapeutic relationship.

Concepts: Therapy, Attachment theory, Psychoanalysis, John Bowlby


This study addresses a gap in the attachment literature by investigating maternal neural response to cry related to infant attachment classifications and behaviors. Twenty-two primiparous mothers and their 18-month old infants completed the Strange Situation (SS) procedure to elicit attachment behaviors. During a separate functional MRI session, mothers were exposed to their own infant’s cry sound, as well as an unfamiliar infant’s cry and control sound. Maternal neural response to own infant cry related to both overall attachment security and specific infant behaviors. Mothers of less secure infants maintained greater activation to their cry in left parahippocampal and amygdala regions and the right posterior insula consistent with a negative schematic response bias. Mothers of infants exhibiting more avoidant or contact maintaining behaviors during the SS showed diminished response across left prefrontal, parietal, and cerebellar areas involved in attentional processing and cognitive control. Mothers of infants exhibiting more disorganized behavior showed reduced response in bilateral temporal and subcallosal areas relevant to social cognition and emotion regulation. No differences by attachment classification were found. Implications for attachment transmission models are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Infant, Brain, Breastfeeding, Cerebrum, Snake scales, Attachment theory, Mary Ainsworth


The attachment style of an infant with his caregiver can greatly influence his future development. Many interventions have been proposed to enhance early secure attachment styles, but few have characteristics that make them suitable for primary health care. The objective of the study wasto design a complex intervention for promoting secure attachment in dyads detected in Primary Health Care with altered patterns of attachment styles. The methodology proposed by the UK Medical Research Council was used: (1) theoretical phase: literature review; (2) modelling phase: the main components of the intervention were defined through qualitative research; and (3) exploration phase: pilot study of the preliminary intervention. The attachment style of the dyads was evaluated using the Massie-Campbell scale prior to and four months after the pilot intervention. The preliminary intervention was designed: a group workshop (five to seven dyads, with children aged between 6 and 12 months and two health care professional monitors) structured around various activities that specifically dealt with the skills associated with parental sensitivity and addressed relevant issues to child rearing. The intervention was then tested in a pilot study of 11 dyads in two primary health care centres. The analysis was done with nine dyads (two were lost in the second evaluation), and showed an improvement of 33 per cent in the secure attachment style in the dyads (not statistically significant). An original intervention is designed and proposed for dyads who have early indicators of altered styles of attachment in primary health care.

Concepts: Health care, Developmental psychology, Attachment theory, Attachment in adults, Attachment parenting