Bowlby John

Bowlby John

(1907-90) the founder of infant-mother ATTACHMENT theory (Bowlby, 1958; Attachment and Loss, 1969). Bowlby trained as a child analyst under the supervision of Melanie KLEIN and worked as a psychiatrist at the London Child Guidance Clinic. The original spur for Bowlby's investigation of the nature of the tie between a mother and her child came from the World Health Organization, concerned that many children were suffering from the adverse effects of care in institutions, particularly as a result of the disruptions of the 1939-45 war. He published his first findings in 1951, concentrating on the role maternal care played in shaping the child's subsequent state of mental health. In developing a theory of attachment, Bowlby drew on his experience in the field of psychoanalysis, but his approach was unique since it combined the retrospective psychoanalytical approach to childhood experiences with ethological data from scientific studies of the development of other species. Some of Bowlby's original ideas (e.g. MATERNAL DEPRIVATION) have been questioned in the light of more recent evidence, but his theory has provided the framework for all subsequent investigations into the child's attachment to the mother figure. Bowlby's attachment theory has strongly influenced the disciplines of psychology, psychiatry and social work, and his popular writings have shaped the way many perceive the psychological development and welfare of the child.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000