Editorial Perspective: On the need for clarity about attachment terminology

Change log

Part of the appeal of attachment language is that it feels near to our everyday experience, as terms like ‘attachment’, ‘security’ or ‘disorganisation’ feel readily recognisable. Yet, not one of these terms is used by academic attachment researchers in line with ordinary language. This has hindered the evidence‐based use of attachment in practice, the feedback loop from practice to research and the dialogue between attachment researchers in developmental psychology and in social psychology. This paper pinpoints the difficulties arising from the existence of multiple versions of ‘attachment theory’ that use exactly the same terms, held by communities that assume that they are referring to the same thing and with little infrastructure to help them discover otherwise. When we talk past one another, the different communities with a stake in knowledge of attachment are obstructed from genuinely learning from one another, drawing on their respective strengths and pursuing collaborations. One factor contributing to this situation has been the use of attachment terminology with technical meanings, but often without setting out clear definitions. We here introduce a guide to attachment terminology used by the academic community, which has recently been published on the website of the Society for Emotion and Attachm ent Studies. The guide is meant for researchers, clinicians and everyone concerned with attachment to increase understanding of the technical meaning of important terminology used by researchers, and support the quality of discussions between researchers, and between researchers and clinicians and other publics.

Editorial Perspective, Attachment, terminology, language, dialogue, confusion
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Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
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Wellcome Trust (WT103343MA)