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on 18 December 2001
This first volume of John Bowlby's trilogy on Attachment and Loss expands and builds upon an article he published in 1958 in the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis titled "The Nature of the Child's Tie to His Mother", which is perhaps a more telling title than that of the book itself. Attachment, as a technical term in behavioural biology, is first used in describing instinctive mother-following behaviours of young mammals and birds (first observed and reported in delightful accounts by the Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz in the 1930's).
By comparing data collected during and after the Second World War by childcare workers and researchers in U.K. and North America, Bowlby found a striking common pattern of distressed behaviours among young children between the ages of one and three when separated from mother for an extended period: first in Protest, then Despair and finally Detachment - a psychopathological state when a child becomes socially uninitiated and withdrawn, even to his returning mother. Bowlby then postulates that physical proximity to a mother-figure is essential to a child's development of cognitive capacities, especially during a sensitive period around six months to two years after birth. Attachment behaviours, like those of young mammals and birds, are present in the human baby too. This has since led to a blossoming of research activities in development psychology and psychoanalysis, as well as neurophysiology recently, which supplies much fresh evidence about the young brain and its phenomenal maturing in the first two years. Attachment theory has since contributed significantly to understanding of our own selves, informed the age-old philosophical debate on nature or nurture, and brought our attention to fundamental issues in child-rearing such as sensitive periods of development, the difference between attachment (conducive to security) and dependence (symptomatic of insecurity), the distinction between anxiety from separation and fear of the unfamiliar, etc.
This new edition is a timely reprint of a classic account of attachment theory as formulated by the originator. While primarily an academic work, with a few chapters deemed more for an academic jury (about Freud and instinctive behaviours, etc.), it is mostly very readable, and certainly captivating to those with access to young babies, of whose behaviours are given an enlightening perspective. This volume focuses on attachment, with subsequent volumes on its loss in temporary and permanent terms respectively.
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The first section is more than likely the hardest where Bowlby tries to clear some intellectual space for him to set out his stall. At the time he had to contend with the heavy weight of Freud, the glare of Klein and the people who provided the support structure, the neo Darwinians.

Bowlby, wisely, instead of bashing his head against their "received" wisdom, decided to incorporate them. This created problems later but was a great short term solution to gaining acceptance. This was the fundamental issue he faced in bringing in a new idea,-(mothers and mother love is essential to long terms physical and emotional health). The notion that parenting was not essential to health appears quaint, or perhaps not, if you are a sociobiologist, then it is all in the genes. In their belief parents have little emotional impact, as the biological clock and the manifest destiny, control the individual, just as it does a dandelion or an elm tree.

However all senses of the world are interpreted by the sense organs, as Bowlby highlights and these are crucial for understanding attachment and detachment. These are code words for (l.o.v.e.). This had been ruled out of science because it is an emotion and science bases itself on value objectivity and erases the irrational. The fact it also uses the sense organs to interpret the world is its Achillles heel and quietly ignored within its own set of rules. Science bases itself upon this emotional and sense organ erasure and then pretends the discipline exists in the objective world, that waiting to be discovered. It is however based upon human perception and what is discovered is what human perception allows itself to "discover."

So where does this leave Bowlby?

He discovered the one fundamental "truth" in the world, the emotional bond between adult caretakers and child are crucial for the childs perception and subsequent development of the young persons interaction with the world. This shapes its internal meaning, how it sees itself and the child uses these internalised guides to then interpret the world. The rest of the guided fictions are based upon this building block outlook. This book is a crucial part of the 20th and 21st century vision. It is bigger than the Bible, greater than Shakespeare and more consuming than any other religious tome. This is the bedrock upon which humans see the world.

Initially it is a difficult book but persevere beyond the socio biology and then you enter Narnia except this is the emotionally real world and not the childhood escapist fantasy built to recompense the horrendous conditions of the real world. Those denied mother love, care taker love become the ice cold unemotional killing self obsessed people who made the long inward retreat because they could not make the connection with the outer world. They lie bereft within. A ladder can be built to help them escape but it needs a patient therapist, someone who understands the contours of the mind prison and who can work to blow away the walls, create sunlight and build that ladder. Bowlby says very little about his method of therapy. He details why people become detached from an emotional connection, because they were never offered the invisible umbilical chord. They were hated from inception by one or both, of the emotional care takers and offered nothing in recompense. This creates the need to search to find a meaning either within or without.

For those who are lucky they are rescued by significant others during childhood adolescence or adulthood. Friends, families, the kindness of strangers or institutions, step in and offer that helping hand out of the abyss.

Others sink into a chasm, flounder and die young, whilst others stand around scratching their heads.

"Why is he/she doing that?"

Only the truly brave can publicly utter their mother never really loved them. This demarcates those who are truly exceptional, those who have found a will to live, despite being given one of biggest handicaps anyone could be lumbered with, and still manage to find empathy for others. Then there are the drowning men and women who litter the mental health wards, drug agencies, park benches, homeless hostels, domestic violence courses, prisons and hospital wards who need that helping hand out of their malaise.

Bowlby is the man who built the bottom rungs of escape. Society, in particular "science" decided to put this particular vehicle out of everyones reach by burying the knowledge. Instead people were given the guided fiction of "genes," an issues Bowlby touches upon, to supersede the basic theory within his research.
"Scientists" who harp on about genes are merely "priests" who wish to enslave through their words, thereby creating intertia so they can colonise with their proclomations.

The Medieval era exists in their edicts as they stare into the cages of entrapped white mice and make scientific sounding statements. Those who are beyond good and vile know the emotional truth, these are the boys without mothers immersed in powerdis courses, on a will to revenge through capturing the academic heights.

There is only one hero- Bowlby- the rest are tea leaf gazers and need to be disrobed of their pretensions. This book is known as pretension stripper.
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on 21 November 2015
Foundational seminal work from Bowlby. It is important reading in order to understand research that has built on Bowlby's work. This work is relevant still to contemporary understanding of human attachment. Essential reading to understand the effect of attachment on consequent loss. The writing is not overly complicated.
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on 9 November 2012
Having used this text some 20 years ago and lost my original copy, it was good to be able to locate this volume via Amazon. It was in excellent condition and it was good to re-visit Bowlby's theories at a more 'mature' period of life-and after a few years of experience ! Bowlby's work has stood the test of time in many ways, but also, on reflection, revisiting some of his ideas in modernity, it still has a very valid place in the study of maternal attachment theories. This is particularly so when studying how societal nurturing and child rearing habits have changed and what the effect has been on child behaviours.
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on 31 January 2015
Honestly, someone needs to proofread this. "Attach meat"? Really? It's a shame because it distracts and detracts from what is otherwise an excellent book.
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on 5 January 2012
This is the best work of it's kind in the field, along with the companion volumes by the same author. Highly recommended for amateur or academic.
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on 15 April 2013
This book really made me think of my attachment/relationship with my baby girl. I really enjoyed it. I might buy the Triology.
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on 30 July 2012
Very dry and academic with far too much preamble - good if you're having trouble sleeping though! A more modern book on this subject would have been more use to me, but I expect it is still useful for serious academics.
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on 5 July 2016
The first of Bowlby`s book on attachment. Well written and understandable.
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on 5 April 2016
Well known in his field. An interesting read.
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