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Paediatr Child Health. 2004 Oct;9(8):541-545.

Infant-parent attachment: Definition, types, antecedents, measurement and outcome.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto; The Research Institute and Infant Psychiatry Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario.


Attachment theory is one of the most popular and empirically grounded theories relating to parenting. The purpose of the present article is to review some pertinent aspects of attachment theory and findings from attachment research. Attachment is one specific aspect of the relationship between a child and a parent with its purpose being to make a child safe, secure and protected. Attachment is distinguished from other aspects of parenting, such as disciplining, entertaining and teaching. Common misconceptions about what attachment is and what it is not are discussed. The distinction between attachment and bonding is provided. The recognized method to assess infant-parent attachment, the Strange Situation procedure, is described. In addition, a description is provided for the four major types of infant-parent attachment, ie, secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant and insecure-disorganized. The antecedents and consequences of each of the four types of infant-parent attachment are discussed. A special emphasis is placed on the description of disorganized attachment because of its association with significant emotional and behavioural problems, and poor social and emotional outcomes in high-risk groups and in the majority of children who have disorganized attachment with their primary caregiver. Practical applications of attachment theory and research are presented.


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