The perspectives of senior researchers in applied disciplines on the current state of developmental attachment research: An interview study

Alissa Mann, Megan Thompson, Sarah Foster, Helen Beckwith, Sheri Madigan, R. Pasco Fearon, Carlo Schuengel, Robbie Duschinsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Based on interviews with leading researchers and researcher-clinicians in fields allied to attachment research, this paper describes participants’ perceptions of contemporary attachment research in the developmental tradition. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 13 research leaders in applied disciplines cognate to attachment research. Participants perceived attachment research as having played a foundational role for developmental science, including highlighting the importance of a developmental perspective and attention to early caregiving experiences. They also identified important contemporary strengths in developmental attachment research, including the observational acuity and insightfulness of its measures, its attention to dyadic processes in contrast to much of biomedicine, the development of a number of attachment-based interventions with well-articulated mechanisms of action, and the capacity of developmental attachment concepts to resonate with clinical and popular audiences. However, participants suggested that the developmental tradition is also perceived as having a comparatively high “cost of entry,” and consequently they warned that it has become somewhat separated from wider developmental science, with its growing prominence of biological research, scalability of methods, and less reliance on theory. Participants perceived both strengths and weaknesses to contemporary developmental attachment research. However they felt that the classic concerns of developmental attachment research were placing the field potentially at odds with current trends in developmental science.
Original languageEnglish
Article number215824402311792
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

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