Disorganization, Fear and Attachment: Working towards clarification

16 Feb 2018

In 1990, M. Main and J. Solomon introduced the procedures for coding a new “disorganized” infant attachment classification for the Ainsworth Strange Situation procedure (M.D.S. Ainsworth, M. Blehar, E. Waters, & S. Wall, 1978). This classification has received a high degree of interest, both from researchers and from child welfare and clinical practitioners. Disorganized attachment has primarily been understood through the lens of E. Hesse and M. Main's concept of “fright without solution,” taken to mean that an infant experiences a conflict between a desire to approach and flee from a frightening parent when confronted by the Strange Situation. Yet, looking back, it can be observed that the way Hesse and Main's texts were formulated and read has generated confusion; there have been repeated calls in recent years for renewed theory and clarification about the relationship between disorganization and fear. Responding to these calls, this article revisits the texts that introduced the idea of fright without solution, clarifying their claims through articulating more precisely the different meanings of the term fear. This clarified account will then be applied to consideration of pathways to infant disorganized behaviors.