Attachment reflects the special bond between infants and their primary caregivers that is formed in the context of their early interactions with one another. This entry summarizes John Bowlby’s theory of attachment, describes how attachment to parents is measured at various points in the lifespan, and summarizes the links between attachment and important outcomes such as mental health and social relationships.

Historical Origins of Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment

John Bowlby, a British psychoanalytic researcher, developed a theory meant to better explain the relationships that occur between infants and their mothers beginning in the first year of life. This work was informed by psychology, evolutionary biology, and animal behavior. Bowlby described attachment as an evolutionary behavioral system that promotes infant survival and protection through the use of behaviors ...

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