Similarities and differences between the ABC + D model and the DMM classification systems for attachment

A practitioner’s guide

Authored by: Prachi E. Shah , Lane Strathearn

The Routledge Handbook of Attachment: Theory

Print publication date:  July  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415538268
eBook ISBN: 9781315762098
Adobe ISBN: 9781317647157


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Infant–mother attachment, as initially conceptualised by John Bowlby (Bowlby 1969), describes the quality of the relationship between a caregiver and the infant. Bowlby conceptualised infancy as a period of helplessness and vulnerability, in which the child is dependent on the caregiver to meet his physical and emotional needs. His seminal work in attachment theory was grounded on the evolutionary basis that a child’s attachment behaviours serve to bring him into closer proximity to his attachment figure, for the purpose of obtaining comfort, safety, security and protection, when feeling distressed or threatened. Mary Ainsworth expanded Bowlby’s theoretical work by developing a classification system to describe the individual differences in patterns of infant attachment behaviour (Ainsworth et al. 1978). Her data from the first year of life indicated that infant patterns of attachment were tied to the quality of maternal ‘sensitive responsiveness’ to infant distress during the first year of life.

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