“… Attachment and Dependency”

From Wikipedia:

“Mary Dinsmore Ainsworth (1913 – 1999) was an American-Canadian developmental psychologist known for her work in the development of the attachment theory. She designed the strange situation procedure to observe early emotional attachment between a child and its primary caregiver.

A 2002 Review of General Psychology survey ranked Ainsworth as the 97th most cited psychologist of the 20th century. Many of Ainsworth’s studies are “cornerstones” of modern-day attachment theory.”

From Object Relations, Attachment & Dependency (1969), by Mary D.S. Ainsworth:

“…An even more crucial source of misunderstanding revolves about the distinction between attachment and attachment behavior. To be sure, attachments can be observed only through attachment behavior, and attachments undoubtedly grow by virtue of the fact that attachment behavior tends to be activated and terminated chiefly by specific figures. But the “attachment” relates to something inside the organism which may be distinguished from the behaviors which mediate it. Thus, attachment behavior may be heightened or intensified in a given situation without the necessary implication that the attachment becomes stronger. For example, a child may cling strongly when alarmed or be more “clingy” during a period of illness, without necessarily becoming more strongly attached. When the alarm is over, or when the period of illness is over – assuming that neither is prolonged or frequently repeated – the child is likely to behave much as he did previously. A person, child or adult, may be chronically “over- dependent” and clingy. This does not imply that he is more attached to his specific objects of attachment than a person who is less dependent and less insecure.

Attachment is a synonym of love; dependency is not. Those in the psychoanalytic tradition use “object” and “love object” interchangeably in the context of attachment relationships. Presumably because lay readers understand “love” more readily than “attachment” both Bowlby (1965) and Ainsworth (1967) used “growth of love” in the titles of their publications rather than “growth of attachment.” Harlow may have been facetious when he entitled his first paper on attachment behavior “The Nature of Love” (1958) , but subsequently he has been consistent in referring to “affectional systems.” If one asks: “Does a phobic wife who clings to her husband and constantly seeks his proximity love him more than a woman who is less neurotic and more competent loves her husband?” the answer is clearly, “No, not necessarily.” Indeed, a clinician might infer that the phobic wife loves less than the healthier wife. A comparable question is: “Is the child who especially clings to his mother more attached to her than a child who clings less – or is he merely more insecure?” Nevertheless the clingy child and the clingy wife are clearly more dependent, even though they do not necessarily love more, and even though they are not more strongly attached. We must conclude that dependency and attachment are by no means identical, even though there is a great overlap in infancy between dependency behaviors and attachment behaviors.

The social learning theorists have acknowledged some of these effects in specifying that isolation, arousal, anxiety, and stress heighten dependency – or rather dependency behavior, for dependency is entirely a behavioral concept. But what of the strength of intensity of a specific relationship? Gewirtz (1969) specifies, and would probably be supported by Cairns (1966a), that the greater the number of behavior systems under the stimulus control of a particular person, the greater the degree of control; and the greater the number of settings in which the control operates, the stronger the attachment may be said to be. Something is stronger in such a relationship – perhaps “dependency;” certainly `being controlled by “-but is it attachment that is stronger? It certainly seems unlikely that it is “love” that is stronger.

In this context the psychoanalysts have made a valuable contribution. They have not been concerned so much with the quantitative dimension of object relations – stronger or weaker love or attachment – as with the qualitative variations among different object relations. How ambivalent is the relationship, what admixture of love and hate, and how well is the ambivalence resolved? How anxious is the relationship? How is it affected by the person’s defenses against anxiety? All of these qualitative considerations have a bearing on the strength of attachment or dependency behavior. Both anxiety and ambivalence may heighten the behavior, while defenses against ambivalence and anxiety tend, in turn, to dampen down the behavior. If “attachment” refers to the “love” component of the relationship, rather than to the relationship as an amalgam of love, anger, and anxiety, then it is clear that the intensity of “attachment behaviors” is an obscure index of the attachment itself. Obviously, we are faced with an issue of definition. What do we mean by attachment? I lean to a definition which equates love and attachment. If such a definition is accepted, it is obvious that at the present time there is no set of indices in terms of which strength or intensity of attachment can be assessed, for all behavioral indices are affected by ambivalence, anxiety, stress, separation, and isolation…”

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