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Attachment theory studies the formation, the characteristics, and the consequences of a special type of relational bond—an attachment relationship—that develops between an infant and his or her mother or other primary caregiver in the first months and years of life. An attachment bond may also come to exist in a limited number of other important relationships in a child’s or an adult’s life, notably in an adult relationship with a long-term romantic partner. Attachment relationships influence our emotional, psychological, and interpersonal lives in critical ways.

Attachment theory was initially formulated by British psychiatrist John Bowlby and further advanced in major ways by his colleague Mary Ainsworth. Bowlby proposed that in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness, in which modern human beings had evolved and in which they ...

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