Disorganized attachment in infancy: a review of the phenomenon and its implications for clinicians and policy-makers

Pehr Granqvist, L. Alan Sroufe, Mary Dozier, Erik Hesse, Miriam Steele, Marinus van Ijzendoorn, Judith Solomon, Carlo Schuengel, Pasco Fearon, Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg, Howard Steele, Jude Cassidy, Elizabeth Carlson, Sheri Madigan, Deborah Jacobvitz, Sarah Foster, Kazuko Behrens, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Naomi Gribneau, Gottfried SpanglerMary J. Ward, Mary True, Susan Spieker, Sophie Reijman, Samantha Reisz, Anne Tharner, Frances Nkara, Ruth Goldwyn, June Sroufe, David Pederson, Deanne Pederson, Robert Weigand, Daniel Siegel, Nino Dazzi, Kristin Bernard, Peter Fonagy, Everett Waters, Sheree Toth, Dante Cicchetti, Charles H. Zeanah, Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Mary Main, Robbie Duschinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-558
Number of pages25
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Volume19
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust: [Grant Number WT103343MA] and the writing of this paper was also facilitated by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation (Grant Number 51897) to Pehr Granqvist. The authors would like to thank many researchers, clinicians, and social workers who gave feedback on previous drafts on this paper. We have really appreciated their contributions. A particular thank you to Felicity Callard, Sue Lampitt, and Matt Woolgar for their suggestions, which led to substantial improvements of the paper. The authors are indebted to the Wellcome Trust (Grant Number WT103343MA) whose support has made a real difference to us and facilitated the discussions that led to this consensus statement. The writing of this paper was also facilitated by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation (Grant Number 51897) to Pehr Granqvist.

Keywords

  • Disorganized attachment
  • attachment disorder
  • attachment-based interventions
  • infancy
  • maltreatment

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