Reviews of The Attachment Connection:
October 15, 2008, Vol. 53, No. 42, Article 4
by F. Richard Ferraro
Although I was somewhat skeptical that yet another self-help book was being written on attachment and development, my skepticism quickly faded when I saw the word science in the title. Since I teach both the undergraduate and graduate versions of developmental psychology, I am acutely aware of the science (and the pseudoscience) involved in the topics of attachment, bonding, and child development. Our “get it solved in 20 minutes” attitude has pervaded development and child rearing, and many daytime TV shows have popularized this topic to the point of providing more fluff than substance.
The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure and Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory, however, is a welcome relief to the often-misguided and misinformed approach many take to this issue. As is often the case, many of my undergraduate (and even graduate) students assume that what is presented on daytime TV regarding child development is the truth. While this ignorance sometimes leads to interesting discussions in class, at the same time it also reveals that science seems to be increasingly taken out of the equation when discussing and debating adequate child development practices. We all know that the strength and consistency of the early bond and attachment are critical for later development. This book is a big step in the right direction of positioning this discussion and debate firmly within a scientific framework.
One (and only one!) good thing about critical issues in child development being showcased on daytime (and nighttime) TV is that such exposure does highlight the relevance of events like school shootings, Internet harassment, and abuse and neglect as they relate to developmental issues. Unfortunately, the discussions and debates then somehow transform into not-so-good discussions about the causes of these critical issues. Here is where the science breaks down and the nonscience causes are trotted out.
This text is a step toward changing that (hopefully) by grounding any discussion of causes firmly in a valid, reliable, and replicable scientific mold. We are given solid scientific explanations of behaviors that easily lend themselves to additional scientific explanations. This scientific mold of attachment and bonding has its beginnings in the seminal work of Bowlby (1952). This text, too, advances the multiple scientific causes of attachment as it relates to child development. Some causes are hard to control or predict (genetics), whereas others are somewhat more easily modifiable (environment) and controllable. The text nicely accounts for these but at the same time indicates the science behind these causes. For instance, many of the chapters deal with the neuroscience and brain science behind attachment as well as integrating knowledge about how the family unit and family environment shape and mold any genetic aspect of attachment.
This text has many highlights, beginning with the scientific rigor obvious throughout the text. Additionally, the author discusses the observation that parents need not parent the way they were parented and, in making this observation, she reveals that parents need not be perfect but be good enough. This idea will be a relief for many parents and is grounded in what the empirical literature does suggest. The author is a trained clinician who has done her homework in this topic, although she is reporting on and reviewing scientific studies performed by others. I say this as a result of a quick scan of the reference list. The classics are there (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1952; Field, 1985) as well as more contemporary scientific work (Belsky et al., 2007; Bowlby, 2007). This ensures a guided, deliberate description of the evolution of the science of attachment and the direction more recent work is taking.
This aspect (old and new) is important because the introduction examines a so-called paradigm shift in the scientific study of attachment, highlighting the impact and relevance of emotional development on a child’s overall development. The introduction also defines the terms used throughout the book. The 13 chapters in this small (223 pages) text are arranged chronologically, from prenatal development up to four years old and beyond. This is also a nice approach, as it traces the developmental trajectory and indicates what is appropriate and expected and what is not, developmentally. Many of the chapters come with several subsections, including Developmental Milestones, Cultivating Secure Attachments, and Play and Parent Focus, all of which scientifically focus the information contained in the text on specific causes of the behavior in question.
All in all, The Attachment Connection is an excellent (and much needed) addition to the scientific texts on attachment, bonding, and child development. I could easily see myself using this text as an addendum to the more formal, academic texts I now use for my developmental classes. I can also see my students appreciating such a text as well. Furthermore, this book is ideal for the new (and even old) parent or grandparent. The way the science is presented is easily readable, and the jargon is at a minimum. I do not want to call it a self-help text, as that conjures up all sorts of negative connotations. Rather, it is a text suitable for anyone learning about or dealing with children.
- Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patters of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Belsky, J., Vandell, D. L., Burchinal, M., Clarke-Stewart, K. A., McCartney, K., Owen, M. T., & the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2007). Are there long-term effects of early child care? Child Development, 78, 681–701.
- Bowlby, J. (1952). Maternal care and mental health (2nd ed.). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
- Bowlby, R. (2007). Babies and toddlers in non-parental daycare can avoid stress and anxiety if they develop a lasting secondary attachment bond with one carer who is consistently accessible to them. Attachment & Human Development, 94, 307–319.
- Field, T. (1985). Attachment as psychobiological attunement: Being on the same wavelength. In M. Reite & T. Field (Eds.), The psychobiology of attachment and separation. New York: Academic Press.
May 1, 2008
by Julianne J. Smith
Newton, a clinical psychologist specializing in affect regulation, has written a valuable book explaining the latest research on the brain’s right hemisphere and how its proper neurobiological development is dependent upon the relationship between infant and primary caregiver. In other words, Newton tackles attachment theory. The text is sometimes dense (this is brain research, after all), but Newton succeeds in summarizing her subject, followed by brain regulation 101, then applies the research from pregnancy through age five.
She explains how the brain’s right hemisphere develops before the left, step by step, one area laying tracks for the next. The right biochemical mix is needed to create a secure base from which blossoms attention, learning, and exploration. This base is created by enhancing positive emotions and regulating negative states, ideally through one primary caregiver (read: mother, who is pressured a little to play nicely, stick to a schedule, and avoid freaking out). It is only when there is chronic misattunement without repair that a child is at risk.
Newton does not lay on the guilt but argues for greater societal understanding of the importance of this developmental period in infancy and for increased support for parents raising young children. Much of this attunement we do automatically (e.g., cooing, carrying baby on the left hip), and we are reminded—yet again—to forget the flash cards. Instead, try giggling while you blow a raspberry on baby’s belly. It’s likely to do baby’s brain—and future—a lot more good. A crucial acquisition for academic libraries and highly recommended for all others.
— Julianne J. Smith, Ypsilanti Dist. Lib., MI