Development and Psychopathology



Implications of attachment theory for developmental psychopathology


L. ALAN SROUFE a1c1, ELIZABETH A. CARLSON a1, ALISSA K. LEVY a1 and BYRON EGELAND a1
a1 University of Minnesota

Abstract

Bowlby's attachment theory is a theory of psychopathology as well as a theory of normal development. It contains clear and specific propositions regarding the role of early experience in developmental psychopathology, the importance of ongoing context, and the nature of the developmental process underlying pathology. In particular, Bowlby argued that adaptation is always the joint product of developmental history and current circumstances (never either alone). Early experience does not cause later pathology in a linear way; yet, it has special significance due to the complex, systemic, transactional nature of development. Prior history is part of current context, playing a role in selection, engagement, and interpretation of subsequent experience and in the use of available environmental supports. Finally, except in very extreme cases, early anxious attachment is not viewed as psychopathology itself or as a direct cause of psychopathology but as an initiator of pathways probabilistically associated with later pathology.


Correspondence:
c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Alan Sroufe, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455.