Attachment theory is one of the most important theories in modern developmental psychology. The theory posits that emotional bonds formed early in life exert a strong influence over individuals’ development and ability to form satisfying relationships later in life. As individuals mature, they develop internal working models of attachment relationships that are activated when they are undergoing stress and influence how they respond. This entry discusses the development of attachment theory, the theory’s emphasis on the importance of early developmental experiences, and the identification of specific patterns of attachment.

Attachment theory grew out of the work of John Bowlby (1907–1990), a British psychoanalyst who sought to understand the intense distress he observed in infants and young children who experienced separations from their mothers. Bowlby grew dissatisfied ...

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