Attachment goes to court: child protection and custody issues

Tommie Forslund, Pehr Granqvist, Marinus H. van IJzendoorn, Avi Sagi-Schwartz, Danya Glaser, Miriam Steele, Mårten Hammarlund, Carlo Schuengel, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Howard Steele, Phillip R. Shaver, Ulrike Lux, John Simmonds, Deborah Jacobvitz, Ashley M. Groh, Kristin Bernard, Chantal Cyr, Nancy L. Hazen, Sarah Foster, Elia PsouniPhilip A. Cowan, Carolyn Pape Cowan, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, David Wilkins, Blaise Pierrehumbert, George M. Tarabulsy, Rodrigo A. Carcamo, Zhengyan Wang, Xi Liang, Maria Kázmierczak, Paulina Pawlicka, Lilian Ayiro, Tamara Chansa, Francis Sichimba, Haatembo Mooya, Loyola McLean, Manuela Verissimo, Sonia Gojman-de-Millán, Marlene M. Moretti, Fabien Bacro, Mikko J. Peltola, Megan Galbally, Kiyomi Kondo-Ikemura, Kazuko Y. Behrens, Stephen Scott, Andrés Fresno Rodriguez, Rosario Spencer, Germán Posada, Rosalinda Cassibba, Neus Barrantes-Vidal, Jesus Palacios, Lavinia Barone, Sheri Madigan, Karen Mason-Jones, Sophie Reijman, Femmie Juffer, R. Pasco Fearon, Annie Bernier, Dante Cicchetti, Glenn I. Roisman, Jude Cassidy, Heinz Kindler, Peter Zimmerman, Ruth Feldman, Gottfried Spangler, Charles H. Zeanah, Mary Dozier, Jay Belsky, Michael E. Lamb, Robbie Duschinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Attachment theory and research are drawn upon in many applied settings, including family courts, but misunderstandings are widespread and sometimes result in misapplications. The aim of this consensus statement is, therefore, to enhance understanding, counter misinformation, and steer family-court utilisation of attachment theory in a supportive, evidence-based direction, especially with regard to child protection and child custody decision-making. The article is divided into two parts. In the first, we address problems related to the use of attachment theory and research in family courts, and discuss reasons for these problems. To this end, we examine family court applications of attachment theory in the current context of the best-interest-of-the-child standard, discuss misunderstandings regarding attachment theory, and identify factors that have hindered accurate implementation. In the second part, we provide recommendations for the application of attachment theory and research. To this end, we set out three attachment principles: the child’s need for familiar, non-abusive caregivers; the value of continuity of good-enough care; and the benefits of networks of attachment relationships. We also discuss the suitability of assessments of attachment quality and caregiving behaviour to inform family court decision-making. We conclude that assessments of caregiver behaviour should take center stage. Although there is dissensus among us regarding the use of assessments of attachment quality to inform child custody and child-protection decisions, such assessments are currently most suitable for targeting and directing supportive interventions. Finally, we provide directions to guide future interdisciplinary research collaboration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages52
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Early online dateJan 11 2021
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - Jan 11 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Attachment theory
  • best interests of the child
  • child custody
  • child protection
  • consensus statement
  • family court

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