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Attachment Disorders

  1. Caroline Campion,
  2. Charles H. Zeanah

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0092

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Campion, C. and Zeanah, C. H. 2010. Attachment Disorders. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Tulane University School of Medicine

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

Abstract

Attachment describes the human infant's tendency to seek comfort, support, nurturance, and protection from a relatively small number of preferred caregivers or attachment figures. The capacity to form an attachment is not present at birth, but develops over time. Although infants in the first 6 months are able to distinguish among different interactive partners, they do not express an obvious preference for one caregiver over another. All of this changes at around 7 to 9 months of age. At that point, infants begin to exhibit stranger wariness and separation protest, two behaviors that herald the onset of focused attachment. Stranger wariness varies from mild reticence to outright distress, but it contrasts with the infant's comfort with an attachment figure, from whom the infant seeks comfort, support, nurturance, and protection. Separation protest describes the infant's reaction to actual or anticipated separation from an attachment figure. After these two behaviors appear, infants are attached to one or more caregivers. Once infants have developed the cognitive capacity to exhibit separation protest and stranger wariness, they may form new attachments with any caregivers with whom they have significant interactive experiences.

Keywords:

  • reactive attachment disorder;
  • attachment disorder;
  • attachment