University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > 'Patterning within the disturbance of coherence': the practical work of measuring and classifying infant disorganised attachment

'Patterning within the disturbance of coherence': the practical work of measuring and classifying infant disorganised attachment

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‘Disorganised attachment’ (Main and Solomon 1990) is a classification made of infant-caregiver relationships in the Ainsworth Strange Situation, and is among the most influential assessments of infant mental health. It is made on the basis of observations of out-of-context, unexpected, or anomalous behaviours shown by an infant on reunion with their caregiver after a brief separation. This classification has received a high degree of interest, from researchers, clinicians and social workers, as well as policy makers. Disorganised attachment has primarily been understood through the lens of the Hesse and 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 parent who frightens them. This talk draws from a wider project, funded by an Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust, studying debates around disorganised infant attachment and their implications for clinicians and social workers. The specific focus of the paper will be on the practical work of measuring and classifying infant-caregiver attachment relationships, drawing on interviews, archival research, and participant observation. The paper will reflect particularly on the significance of sharp disparities found between conventional, circulating accounts of disorganised attachment and coders’ practical theories of behaviour and relationship processes.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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