The infant disorganised attachment classification: "Patterning within the disturbance of coherence".

23 Mar 2018

Since its introduction by Main and Solomon in 1990, the infant disorganised attachment classification has functioned as a predictor of mental health in developmental psychology research. It has also been used by practitioners as an indicator of inadequate parenting and developmental risk, at times with greater confidence than research would support. Although attachment disorganisation takes many forms, it is generally understood to reflect a child's experience of being repeatedly alarmed by their parent's behaviour. In this paper we analyse how the infant disorganised attachment classification has been stabilised and interpreted, reporting results from archival study, ethnographic observations at four training institutes for coding disorganised attachment, interviews with researchers, certified coders and clinicians, and focus groups with child welfare practitioners. Our analysis points to the role of power/knowledge disjunctures in hindering communication between key groups: Main and Solomon and their readers; the oral culture of coders and the written culture of published papers; the research community and practitioners. We highlight how understandings of disorganised attachment have been magnetised by a simplified image of a child fearful of his or her own parent.