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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview to Bowlby's Writing, 2 Jun. 2006
This review is from: The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
This book is deservedly a classic, referring to affectional bonds in the psychological sense of affect or emotion it is an innovative collection of essays from Bowlby.

Bowlby was an analyst who was central to developments placing psycho-analyse on a more scientific footing, in this book he contrasts analysis with social learning theory which he felt was more scientific proceeding from testable hypothesis, and focusing upon the development of psychological traits, ie attachment.

In many of the chapters Bowlby appears to be writing recommendations for further research or establishing the limitations of existing theory. This book is a good place to begin to discover Bowlby's essential ideas about attachment, bonding, seperation and loss, the emotional conflict this entails and resulting acquisition of emotional copeing skills and strategy in childhood. Included is some speculation about negative patterns of behaviour originating when secure attachment styles do not develop.

The book also serves as a fair critism of psycho-analysis in general at the time, in this respect its like Crisis of Psychoanalysis: Essays on Freud, Marx, and Social Psychology by Eric Fromm or some of Fromm's books in the routledge classics series. See The Dogma of Christ: And Other Essays on Religion, Psychology and Culture (Routledge Classics), The Fear of Freedom (Routledge Classics), The Sane Society (Routledge Classics).

Bowlby praises psycho-analysis for providing good conceptual tools for assessment or treatment, such as transference, repression, projection, from observation.

However, on the other hand, he criticises analysis for not being scientific enough to proceed from testable hypothesis. As previously stated Bowlby compares and contrasts analysis with social learning theory, which he praises for scientific grounding but finds too mechanical.

Ethnography, for Bowlby is a possible bridge for the gap between the disciplines of psycho-analysis and social learning theory, providing a scientific foundation. Its not immediately apparent from this book alone but Bowlby was a great admirer of Darwin, writing material about Darwin's life. In some way Darwins observations prefigure the observations at the root of early attachment theory speculation, see The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Anniversary Edition.

Darwin's own observations about physical and "psychological" development serving a survival function, particularly in a species young, provide good back ground reading for people interested in Bowlby's influences and the origins of attachment theory.

The measured criticisms of Freud and Jung explains a bit about the origins and development of analytical theory. Bowlby describes Freud as beginning with the examination of irrationality and irrational unconscious drives/motivation but trying to do so within the bounds of observation and analysis. The work of other theorists, like Jung, takes analysis further into the bounds of the irrational and Bowlby considers right into huermetics or symbolism.

This is by no means the final word on attachment, neither is it the whole of Bowlby's work. Other researchers have developed Bowlby's theories further through child observation and strange situation tests where unknown adults are substituted for parents or attachment figures. There are a lot of books available on amazon from different disciplines and aimed at different professional audiences, for instance David Howe is a notable figure writing for an audience of social work practitioners. See Child Abuse and Neglect: Attachment, Development and Intervention, Attachment Theory for Social Work Practice, Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support: A Practice and Assessment Model.

There are also parenting books online discussing breast feeding and attachment and some interesting more recent anthropological observations and findings which would appear to vindicate Bowlby's theories too, see The Continuum Concept (Arkana).

I can recommend this book not just to social work practitioners or professionals but also people interested in general social theory, its referred to in Eric Fromm's The Crisis In Psychoanalysis. This book is better, if you can handle the writing style which does not impress me as too academic or clinical, than a lot of pop psychology books.
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Location: North Coast of Ireland

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