Six attachment discourses: convergence, divergence and relay

Robbie Duschinsky, Lianne Bakkum, Julia M. M. Mannes, Guy C. M. Skinner, Melody Turner, Alissa Mann, Barry Coughlan, Sophie Reijman, Sarah Foster, Helen Beckwith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


Attachment concepts are used in diverging ways, which has caused confusion in communication among researchers, among practitioners, and between researchers and practitioners, and hinders their potential for collaboration. In this essay we explore how attachment concepts may vary in meaning across six different domains: popular discourses, developmental science, social psychological science, psychiatric diagnosis, psychotherapy, and child welfare practice. We attempt to typify these forms of attachment discourse by highlighting points of convergence, divergence, and relay between the different domains. Our general conclusions are that diversity in the use of attachment concepts across different domains of application has been largely unrecognised, and that recognition of these differences would reduce confusion, help identify sites where infrastructure needs to be developed to support coordination, and strengthen opportunities for collaboration to mutual benefit. We suggest that academic attachment discourse would benefit from clarification of core terminology, including: “attachment”, “internal working model”, “trauma”, and “dysregulation”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-374
Number of pages20
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number4
Early online date12 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2021


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