arises when attachment needs are left unmet.
Challenges to the attachment bond understandably may result in anxiety over a perceived threat of abandonment, or anger, which serves the useful function of pulling the caregiver’s attention back to the threatened individual who feels abandoned and vulnerable (Bowlby, 1988). Attachment bonds, then, represent the recursive pull between two individuals. Threats to those attachment bonds may create a sense of abandonment that results in feeling, expressing, and providing feedback to strong, negatively experienced emotions.
Attachment theory provides an encompassing framework for considering both relationships and the relational problems that arise in families. Given both the fundamental and recursive nature of attachment bonding needs, attachment theory seems inherently logical in describing and normalizing relational needs and providing a context for helping family members who perceive threats to their attachment bonds.
Attachment theory creates a framework that normalizes attachment needs. Rather than considering the need for attachment as pathological, attachment theory considers the emotional bonds that people create, experience and strive to maintain as comparable to the drives for food and sex (Bowlby, 1988). Attachment bonds are considered necessary and expected in a well-functioning adult.
Hazan and Shaver (1987) forthrightly suggest that romantic love is an attachment process. They view the attachment framework as a cogent working model for all adult attachment, as it encompasses the rationale behind forming both “healthy and unhealthy” love relationships as “reasonable adaptations to specific social circumstances” (p. 511).
In a later work, Shaver and Hazan (1993) continue to examine adult attachment and love, noting Bowlby’s (1979) assessment that “…the formation of an attachment bond is equivalent to falling in love” (p. 29). Adult attachment, though, implies a mutuality of support and care. Weiss’s (1982) conceptualizations of adult attachment bonds make this clear. Weiss contends that: a) adult attachments imply reciprocity of caregiving, rather than only one (the child) being the recipient of (adult) care; b) adult attachment figures are of about the same age, and may be sexual partners; and c) in adult attachment, “…the exploration system is not as easily overwhelmed by the attachment system as it was in childhood…” (cited in Shaver and Hazan, 1993, pp. 31-32). It is interesting to note that the colloquialism “falling in love” pertains to an unconditional feeling of devotion and attachment, whether it is with a tiny, dependent child, who has no cognitive concept of “love,” or with another adult who engages one in a mutually nurturing and loving relationship.
Ainsworth (1989) conceptualizes attachment as “affectional bonds,” wherein the bond is forged with “…an attachment figure (that) is never wholly interchangeable with or replaceable by another…” (p. 711). Further, she views attachment bonds as “…characteristic of the individual, not the dyad, and (they) entail representation in the internal organization of the individual person” (p. 711). Although the experience of attachment exists in a relational context, attachment bonding is held within and perceived