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Attachment Theory

Definition, phases, key concepts, principles, attachment patterns, stability, factors involved in attachment formation, improving attachment, adult attachment patterns, cross-cultural issues, adopting a critical perspective, nurturing Aboriginal children, out of home care, relevance for social workers

Three sections follow:

  1. Background Material that provides the context for the topic

  2. A suggested Practice Approach

  3. A list of Supporting Material / References

Feedback welcome!

Background Material


Attachment is the enduring ties of affection that children form with their primary caregivers. It includes

  • A desire for proximity to an attachment figure

  • A sense of security derived from a person’s presence

  • A feeling of distress when the person is absent

  • An interaction between two people who react to each other’s signals.

Bowlby, the person behind attachment theory, proposed an evolutionary theory of attachment. Just as animals attach to their parents for food and protection (the imprinting process), attachment behaviour in humans evolved for the same reason. A secure attachment means the infant is more likely to be fed, protected, and learn skills (Burton, Westen, & Kowalski, 2012).

Bosmans et al. (2022) discuss a “learning theory of attachment” relating attachment formation to classical and operant conditioning. A stimulus (e.g. distress) elicits an unconditional response from the parent (e.g. support or being ignored) that leads to either a reduction of distress or feelings of being rejected or ignored. Repetitions of this cycle leads the child to expect and look for a certain reaction from their parent and when this happens (i.e. comfort or rejection). This is reinforced through operant conditioning.

There are four distinct phases of attachment (Cherry & Gans, 2019; Peterson, 2010)

  • Pre-Attachment Stage From birth to 3 months, infants do not show any particular attachment to a specific caregiver. The infant's signals, such as crying and fussing, naturally attract the attention of the caregiver and the baby's positive responses encourage the caregiver to remain close.

  • Indiscriminate Attachment Between 6 weeks of age to 7 months, infants begin to show preferences for primary and secondary caregivers. Infants develop trust that the caregiver will respond to their needs. While they still accept care from others, infants start distinguishing between familiar and unfamiliar people, responding more positively to the primary caregiver.

  • Discriminate Attachment At this point, from about 7 to 11 months of age, infants show a strong attachment and preference for one specific individual. They will protest when separated from the primary attachment figure (separation anxiety) and begin to display anxiety around strangers (stranger anxiety).

  • Multiple Attachments After approximately 9 months of age, children begin to form strong emotional bonds with other caregivers beyond the primary attachment figure. This often includes the father, older siblings, and grandparents. Stranger fear develops about the same time. Tell-tale signs of an attachment being formed include:

    • The expression of special positive emotional attraction for the target of the attachment.

    • Evidence that the attraction is specific to this one person or felt more strongly for him or her than for people in general.

    • Reluctance to be separated from the attachment target (separation anxiety).

    • Delight in reunion with the target after a separation

Blakeley and Dziadosz (2015) list three key concepts in attachment theory:

  1. The attachment behavioural system is activated when there is a threat of separation from the attachment figure. The child responds to this threat according to her or his attachment style

  2. Four attachment styles are usually discussed: secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant and disorganised, with the last three classed as ‘insecure’.

  3. Working models, a set of expectations and beliefs about self and others, flow from one’s attachment style and become increasingly resistant to change as one ages.

Patterns of Attachment

Four broad categories define an infant’s attachment behaviour:

  1. Securely attached, i.e. infants protest when the mother departs, actively search for her during her absence and display intense delight in reunion on her return.

  2. Insecure avoidant attachment, i.e. infants are indifferent to mother and show little delight in being reunited.

  3. Anxious-ambivalent insecure attachment, i.e. infants cling to their mother and are distressed when she leaves but reunion brings little joy; these infants appear disorganised, anxiety-ridden and negative.

  4. Disorganised attachment, i.e. infants behave in contradictory ways that reflect their difficulty predicting or understanding the way their attachment figures will behave; this can arise when parenting itself is unpredictable (Burton, Westen, & Kowalski, 2012; Peterson, 2010)

Infants develop internal working models (mental representations of attachment relationships) that form the basis for expectations in close relationships. In fact, infants and toddlers can develop different internal working models for different people, meaning they react differently to people (e.g. fathers, pre-school teachers, other relatives). The theory of internal working models can explain why attachment security with parents predicts the quality of peer relationships years later. Children who are securely attached as infants tend to develop stronger self-esteem and better self-reliance as they grow older. These children also tend to be more independent, perform better in school, have successful social relationships, and experience less depression and anxiety. They become more trusting and engaging with peers and lovers, who often respond positively, creating a self-reinforcing cycle (Burton, Westen, & Kowalski, 2012; Cherry & Gans, 2019).

Stability of Attachment

Recent meta-analyses incorporating both interview and self-report measures of attachment have found that attachment tends to be relatively stable from infancy/childhood into adulthood. However, these studies also support that many individuals do experience changes over time. Secure attachment is more likely to be stable over time than insecure attachment. Importantly, meta-analyses support that stability and change in attachment over time depend on factors such as family instability or abuse, adoption, low income, and social risk (maltreatment, divorce, parental depression). Fortunately, most individuals in high-risk samples shift from insecure to secure attachment over time (Sutton, 2019).

Causes of Secure/Insecure Attachment

The development advantages of acquiring a secure attachment during infancy are likely to persist throughout the lifespan and may include self-confidence, emotional wellbeing, a happy marriage or a warm relationship with one’s own offspring. Consequently, it is important to understand what causes infants to become securely attached (Peterson, 2010):

  • Caregiver sensitivity The sensitivity of the caregiver is the factor that seems to trigger attachment. In general, parents who recognise and respond cheerfully and appropriately to their infants’ moods, social signals and needs when in distress are the ones most likely to inspire an early attachment. Other sensitive parenting behaviour includes displaying synchrony (approaching when infant wants to socialise; withdrawing when infant wants solitude), is not aloof or detached and plays with infant with enjoyment, stimulating the baby’s cognitive development. In addition adopting an appropriate emotional tone throughout parenting aids attachment formation, e.g. a parent who is not hostile and shows affection and responsive affect.

  • The caregiver’s attachment history There is clear evidence of generational continuities in insensitive parenting, e.g. having insensitive parents can lead to a current parent being insensitive to their infant. However it caregivers can rationalise the trauma insensitive parenting caused for them as due to factors outside the parent-infant bond, adverse consequences for their own parenting can be avoided.

  • Infant temperament and attachment Temperament has a lot to do with attachment and parent sensitivity. Beginning life with a favourable temperament pattern boosts the baby’s changes of achieving a secure attachment, because easy, alert infants are cheerful and willing to interact. They can teach the novice mother what their needs are and how to satisfy them.

  • Day care and attachment The results of a large US study found out-of-home care, including childcare, had no effect per se on the probability of an infant developing either a secure or an insecure attachment. Research suggests the quality of a caregiver’s sensitivity, rather than the sheer quantity of time that infant and caregiver spend together, influences attachment security.

Sutton (2019) suggest three factors can lead to insecure attachment:

  1. Maltreatment and violence in the young person’s family. Existing research supports that physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect in childhood are each related to the development of an insecure attachment style in either childhood or adulthood.

  2. Parental depression, as it may interfere with a parent’s ability to be responsive, emotionally available, or warm to a child

  3. Security of attachment may also be threatened if a child perceives a parent to be unavailable, as may be the case with parental divorce. This can be partially accounted for by less positive parenting in divorced families.

Attachment Through Life

Attachment patterns that begin in infancy can persist and find expression in a wide range of social behaviour through the life span. Attachment security in infants predicts self-control, peer acceptance, socially competent behaviour and school marks from preschool to adolescence. Disorganised attachment can lead to impulsive, disruptive and aggressive behaviour in primary school (Burton, Westen, & Kowalski, 2012).

Attachment bonds formed in infancy continue to shape adolescents’ and adults’ relationship satisfaction and beliefs about relationships over the remainder of the lifespan. People with a secure attachment history tend to score higher than those with an insecure attachment history on measures of self-esteem, popularity with peers, skills for coping with difficult cognitive problems or social situations, skills for coping with failure, enthusiasm and persistence in learning, curiosity, mature independence from parents, and freedom from problem behaviours such as aggression, hyperactivity or anxiety.

While attachment patterns have considerable stability because internal working models tend to change slowly, as life circumstances change, so can attachment styles. For example, longitudinal research suggests that childhood risk factors such as parental loss or divorce, life-threatening illness or parent or child and child abuse can turn securely attached infants into insecurely attached adults (Burton, Westen, & Kowalski, 2012). Sutton (2019) agrees with this assessment: research suggests that secure individuals successfully regulate emotions while insecure individuals, who experience ineffective parenting learn proximity seeking is an unsuccessful strategy for easing their distress, so these children develop secondary attachment strategies that they continue to use in adulthood, similar to those outlined by Fraley below.

Fraley (2018) suggests researchers use a slightly different approach when discussing adult attachment patterns. Adult attachment involves two fundamental dimensions: (i) attachment-related anxiety and (ii) attachment-related avoidance. (i) People who score high on attachment-related anxiety tend to worry whether their partner is available, responsive, attentive, etc. People who score on the low end of this variable are more secure in the perceived responsiveness of their partners. (ii) People on the high end of attachment-related avoidance prefer not to rely on others or open up to others. People on the low end of this dimension are more comfortable being intimate with others and are more secure depending upon and having others depend upon them. These dimensions are placed on a scale from low to high and offset vertically with each other. This results in four types of adult attachment:

  • Secure—these people are comfortable expressing emotions openly, can depend on their partners and let their partners rely on them; relationships are based on honesty, tolerance, and emotional closeness.

  • Avoidant or dismissive—these people have high self-esteem and a positive view of themselves; they do not want to depend on others or seek support and approval from others,

  • Anxious or preoccupied—these people have a negative self-image and a positive view of others; they seek approval, support and responsiveness from their partner,

  • Disorganised or fearful-avoidant—these people seek intimacy and closeness but experience trouble trusting and depending on others; they avoid strong emotional attachment.

Sutton (2019) discusses adult attachment and romantic relationships.

  • Secure individuals are comfortable with intimacy and easily trust their partner. They both receive and give more emotional support to their partner compared to insecurely attached individuals. Their relationships are more stable.

  • Insecure individuals can fear intimacy and closeness and avoid relationships (avoidant) or obsess over their relationship and desire a high level of reciprocity and closeness (anxious). Anxious and avoidant individuals have fewer positive conflict management skills, more negative conflict management skills, and greater difficulties coping with conflict than secure individuals. Avoidantly attached individuals also tend to suppress displays of emotion and engage in less accommodating behaviors during conflict while anxiously attached individuals express more anger and look for support from their partner. Insecure attachment is a risk factor for intimate partner violence and may be one mechanisms that accounts for the intergenerational transmission of family violence. Violence may be highest when a couple involves a pairing of avoidantly and anxiously attached partners.

The AAI and ECR-R are the most widely used instruments for measuring adult attachment (Sutton, 2019). However, Buchanan (2013) suggests social workers should operate from a critical perspective when using such instruments. For example Buchanan suggests the AAI focuses on childhood experiences and pays little regard to wider issues of adult lived experiences, societal contexts and the social identities that form and reform over the lifespan in response to injustice.

Major Principles of Attachment Theory

Simpson et al. (2021) suggest attachment theory has several fundamental principles, most of which address how and why people think, feel and behave in particular ways within relationships at different points of their lives. These principles are consistent with much of the material discussed above. If required, consult the article for elaboration.

  1. Attachment theory is an evolutionary, biologically based theory.

  2. The attachment system coexists with other behavioural systems, e.g. the exploration, social-caregiving systems in childhood and the sexual/mating system in adulthood.

  3. The attachment system and the caregiving system are interrelated, i.e. the types of bonds that children and adults form—secure, avoidant, ambivalent and disorganised—depend on the type, quantity, and quality of caregiving they have received from prior caregivers/attachment figures.

  4. Attachment relationships serve three functions—proximity seeking, safe haven and providing a secure base.

  5. Attachment figures, and the type of attachment to them, shape internal working models that assist individuals to decide how to react and behave in specific situations.

  6. The attachment system is operative from “the cradle to the grave” although attachment orientations can change over the lifespan.

  7. Attachment security is an inner resource that facilitates resilience; attachment insecurity is a vulnerability associated with poorer outcomes.

  8. Individuals experience a specific sequence of reactions—disorientation, protest, despair and resumption of normal activities (but not necessarily in a rigid sequence)—when separated from or when they lose their attachment figures.

  9. The attachment system is universal, yet also culturally dependent.

Cross Cultural Applicability

There are cross-cultural variations in the frequencies of each of these attachment types. For example in Australia 65% are secure whereas only 50% are secure in China. In Australia, 10% are type C compared to just under 30% in Japan. It is possible the variation is the result of the testing situation, e.g. infants may not encounter situations such as that used in the ‘Strange Situation’ in real life (Peterson, 2010).

Ganz (2018) touches on cross-cultural issues when discussing the universality hypothesis. This hypothesis maintains that, while cultural variables in parenting practice may exist, the fundamental principles of attachment theory hold true across cultures. In exploring whether this hypothesis is true Ganz identifies three prerequisites that attachment theory assumes for healthy attachment: caregivers must have (i) sufficient economic resources to dedicate enough time for this endeavour, (ii) responsibility for only a small number of children so that time and energy are not divided, and (iii) sufficient formal education that promotes verbal expression between mother and child. Ganz points out that these requirements are not characteristic of the types of situations of mothers worldwide and may be less representative of the majority even in a Western context. Ganz states the universal hypothesis can be criticised because attachment theory’s theoretical and research base has been developed in a specific cultural milieu that privileges a conception of emotional connection informed by a strictly Western perspective of relationships and family. In turn, the nature of emotional connectedness—and consequently healthy and secure attachment—has been defined within the confines of this model.

Practice Approach

In summary: Understanding attachment theory is another area of knowledge that assist social workers can draw on when supporting others. Much of social work involves accepting the person as they are, looking at the multitude of factors that impact on their lives, and assisting them to navigate these so they become the person they desire to be. However, Use of attachment theory needs to be supported by a comprehensive (e.g. biopsychosocial-spiritual) assessment enabling social workers to adopt a critical perspective to the client’s situation. Adopting a critical perspective is a central theme of social work and some writers have highlighted the importance of this if using an approach that relies on attachment theory.

Adopting a Critical Perspective

Ganz (2018) suggests social workers need to consider how attachment principles are applied in practice because of potential cultural variations in how a healthy and secure attachment is considered in different cultures. Briksman, Pease and Allan (2009) generalise this point even further by suggesting the importance of social workers adopting a critical perspective when introducing attachment theory into a discussion. They suggest the worker should consider all factors that impact on the family’s capacity to form healthy attachments, e.g. structural oppression and multigenerational influences. Importantly history and context should be considered before blaming the carer (usually the mother) for insecure attachment.

Taking a critical perspective is consistent with the approach proposed by Ryan (2011), who discusses the differences between Western and Aboriginal attachment approaches. This is outlined in the section that follows.

Buchanan (2013) points out that many feminists have taken issue with attachment theory, describing the attachment field’s prescriptive mothering role as unreasonable, the emphasis on mothering as politically motivated and the rational for focusing on mothering in isolation from context as patriarchal. From a feminist perspective, attachment theory is seen as a discourse, which prescribes a narrow and conservative role for women as mothers and promotes beliefs, which extend the objectification of women. Within attachment theory, the societal pressures on women are not considered as problematic, nor is the proscribed role of women as mothers critiqued. Social identities of ethnicity, culture, class, and multiple oppressions are ignored as a narrow lens is applied to categorise the mother/baby relationship and situate potential problems within that relationship.

The strange situation is now frequently used as the sole instrument for applying attachment categories to women and their babies. Ainsworth was dismayed by this development, as she did not see the procedure as a thorough means of defining mother/baby relationships. There is no indication of how the baby reacts to others in the family. Factors of poverty and levels of support are disregarded. In addition, Anglo-centric, middleclass norms of childrearing are assumed. If the relationship is deemed insecure, the woman’s childhood experiences of attachment can then be the subject of investigation without regard for other factors that may have impacted.

Buchanan reminds social workers that they have a responsibility to challenge systems that undermine social justice. Taking an uncritical view of attachment theory may mean social workers fail in this responsibility.

In illustrating the issues around an uncritical use of attachment theory Buchanan is critical of how attachment theory has influenced the debate and practices around domestic violence. Without a critical, social justice approach women who endure domestic violence can be portrayed as deficient in mothering abilities. Furthermore, others, including men who perpetrate domestic violence, are absolved of responsibility for children’s wellbeing. Society and its institutions are excluded from accountability.

Buchanan suggests social workers need to take a critical view of the ways attachment theory excludes the broader picture and minimises the experiences of both women and their children. There is a need to be aware of and address the ways in which societal institutions maintain inequities between men and women.

Adopting a Critical Perspective When Supporting Aboriginal Families

Ryan (2011) provides an example of the importance of a critical perspective when discussing attachment in Aboriginal cultures. Ryan highlights the three hypotheses that underpin attachment theory demonstrating how these apply differently in some Aboriginal communities.

  • The first core hypothesis of attachment theory is that “the caregiver who is sensitive to the child will achieve a secure attachment.” One way this is expressed in Aboriginal culture is through anticipating needs and minimising the expression of distress, as opposed to the stated hypothesis that the sensitive caregiver will respond to children’s distress. Aboriginal infants and children may have a number of regular female attachment figures, providing enduring relationships of support into adulthood. Multiple mothering is common in some Aboriginal communities, although the biological mother still plays the central role in the care of her child.

  • The second hypothesis is that “secure attachment results in social competence as a child and as an adult.” According to a Western view the values that define competence are autonomy, resilience, and persistence in problem solving. However, for Aboriginal people, values of interdependence, group cohesion, spiritual connectedness, traditional links to the land, community loyalty, and inter-assistance were common indicators of social and emotional competence. The Western values were only important in as much as they supported group cohesion and connectedness.

  • The third hypothesis is that children who are securely attached use the primary caregiver as a secure base for exploring the external world. However, Aboriginal children are often discouraged from exploration before the age of two, and children younger than two are carried rather than allowed to crawl or walk. Older children are encouraged to be self-reliant and look out for other children and siblings. This suggests that peers and multiple caregivers may act as a child’s secure base.

Applying the above to child protection, Ryan suggests social workers should assess the attachment relationship between Aboriginal infants, children, and their caregivers according to the cultural parameters and values of their clients. Attachment theory provides a framework for defining the relationship between a primary caregiver and an infant or young child to determine whether a healthy emotional bond exists between them. The traditional form of Aboriginal nurturance is very broad and includes nurturance and attachment to kin, to community, and to land, and provides Aboriginal people with a strong code for living socially, spiritually, physically, and morally. Research has shown that aspects of traditional nurturance and child rearing are still in existence in contemporary Aboriginal cultures in Aboriginal communities across Australia.

Children in Out of Home Care (OoHC)

Ryan’s observations, together with the need to adopt a critical perspective with attachment theory, are relevant to a discussion of OoHC given the over-representation of Aboriginal children involved in foster care. A number of other writers also discuss the relevance of attachment theory to OoHC.

In 2006 NSW Department of Community Services acknowledged that OoHC children may have an insecure attachment. DoCS suggested these children need to develop trust that the foster carer will provide predictable, sensitive and effective care during times of emotional need. Foster carers can enable this process by (i) a commitment to sharing the child’s journey, i.e. showing empathy and seeing the world through the child’s eyes, (ii) ensuring the carer maintains close, confiding, intimate relationships so support for the child is available, (iii) establishing a source of professional support to assess progress, warn of risks and propose solutions, and (iv) working with others to build an environment that promotes a secure attachment. Assisting foster carers to look at a child’s behaviour from an attachment viewpoint is an approach social workers could adopt. It help foster carers find alternative explanations, make sense of difficult situations, have empathy with the child, and develop parenting strategies that can reduce a child’s distress (NSW DoCS, 2006).

Savaglio et al. (2021) address the incidence of problematic eating in young people in OoHC by suggesting an attachment-focused approach. They point out that children who are insecurely attached are either not easily comforted by their foster carers when they feel distressed, or they try to comfort and soothe themselves in a self-reliant manner. These experiences often translate into negative internal working models (i.e., schemas) of the self and significant others, which may manifest as emotion dysregulation (i.e., the inability to self-soothe and appropriately regulate one’s emotions) or deficits in mentalisation (i.e., the inability to understand one’s own and others’ behaviour in terms of their underlying thoughts, feelings, and beliefs). Emotion dysregulation has been consistently found to mediate the association between insecure attachment and problematic eating behaviours. The review by Savaglio et al. concludes by suggesting three programs can assist young people to better regulate their emotions: enhanced cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-E at, mentalisation-based therapy (MBT), and Healthy Eating, Active Living Matters (HEALing Matters at

Botes and Ryke (2011) suggest attachment theory could identify and address an array of behaviours among the children whom social workers routinely deal with in foster care but caution that one should not see it as a “silver bullet” to change barely functioning foster placements into havens of emotional security overnight. The authors suggest attachment theory can be used in foster care supervision in five ways:

  • Foster care screening – the process of selecting prospective foster parents and matching of foster children.

  • Foster care supervision visits – regular in-home contact, where the placement is monitored.

  • Placement assessments – reviews of the physical conditions, social and emotional wellness of the foster parents and child.

  • Report writing – e.g. assessment reports.

  • Panel discussions – forums where the foster care placement is discussed to facilitate decision making.

Social Work with Parents and Children

Using attachment theory may be an approach to incorporate when parents present with questions about their children. There are a number of programs that claim to address attachment problems in children. Two approaches are mentioned by Botes and Ryke (2011):

Social Work with Adults

Blakeley and Dziadosz (2015) propose that social workers can broadly use attachment theory for assessment and treatment of the psychosocial problems their clients present. Social workers are skilled in developing client social histories and are experienced in obtaining the information that can be interpreted in the context of attachment theory. They can then plan effective intervention strategies to assist clients in organizing appropriate pathways to correct negative self- and object-working models toward the objective of adopting a secure attachment style.

Sutton (2019) suggests attachment theory should be incorporated into marriage education programs by

  • Including lessons on helping parents develop warm and responsive parenting strategies increasing the likelihood that their offspring will develop a secure attachment and thus have more satisfying and less violent relationships as adults

  • Teaching individuals with an insecure attachment style how to express emotions in a healthy way

  • Including lessons on constructively handling conflict


While attachment theory is relevant in some specific circumstances (e.g. OoHC and parents with, or about to have, children), much of social work involves accepting the person as they are, critically examining the multitude of factors that impact on their lives (e.g. via a biopsychosocial assessment), and assisting them to navigate these so they become the person they desire to be. This approach avoids the issue of simplistically blaming individuals (e.g. parents) for current problems (e.g. with children). While, from time to time, this approach may involve developing strategies that assist a person to develop a more secure style, the process of change is more likely to be carried out in the context of the practice approach being used, e.g. strengths based, solution-focused, task-centred, crisis-intervention, etc. Knowledge of attachment theory may be relevant, but probably not central to most social work.

Supporting Material / References

Comment after my Facebook post on attachment theory: "This is good but please, please read around attachment as it is SO MUCH MORE than these categories of attachment. So much more. Read people like Dan Hughes, Kim Golding, Amber Elliott, Bruce Perry, Arthur Becker-Weidman, Sue Gerhardt, Kate Cairns and Alfie Kohn."

Blakeley, T., & Dziadosz, G. M. (2015). Application of attachment theory in clinical social work. Health and Social Work, 40(4): hlv059. doi:10.1093/hsw/hlv059

Bosmans, G., Van Vlierberghe, L., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Kobak, R., Hermans, D., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (2022). A learning theory approach to attachment theory: Exploring clinical applications. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 1-22. Retrieved from

Botes, W., & Ryke E. (2011). The competency base of social workers with regard to attachment theory in foster care supervision: A pilot study. Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, 47(1), 31-50.

Briskman, L., Pease, B., & Allan, J. (2009). Critical social work: An introduction to theories and practices. Crows Nest, N.S.W: Allen & Unwin.

Buchanan, F. (2013). A critical analysis of the use of attachment theory in cases of domestic violence. Critical Social Work, 14(2), 19-30

Burton, L., Westen, D., & Kowalski, R. (2012). Psychology, 3rd Australian and New Zealand Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Cherry, K., & Gans, S. (2019). What is attachment theory? The importance of early emotional bonds. Retrieved from

Fraley, C. (2018). Adult attachment theory and research: A brief overview. Retrieved from

Ganz, Z. (2018). Attachment theory’s universality hypothesis: Clinical implications for culturally responsive assessment. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 88(4), 262-281.

NSW DcCS: New South Wales Department of Community Services. (2006). The importance of attachment in the lives of foster children: Key messages from research. Retrieved from

Peterson, Candida C. (2010). Looking forward through the lifespan: Developmental psychology (5th ed). University of Queensland: Pearson Australia.

Ryan, F. (2011). Kanyininpa (holding): A way of nurturing children in Aboriginal Australia. Australian Social Work, 64(2), 183-197. doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2011.581300

Savaglio, M., Bergmeier, H., Green, R., O’Donnell, R., Pizzirani, B., Bruce L., & Skouteris, H. (2021). Problematic eating interventions in out-of-home care: The need for a trauma-informed, attachment-focused approach. Australian Social Work, 74:3, 361-372. doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2019.1641528

Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., Eller, J., & Paetzold, R. L. (2021). Major principles of attachment theory. In Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp. 222-239). Retrieved from

Sutton, T. E. (2019). Review of attachment theory: Familial predictors, continuity and change, and intrapersonal and relational outcomes. Marriage and Family Review, 55(1), 1-22.

Theraplay. (2016). Theraplay: Helping parents and children build better relationships through attachment-based play. Retrieved from


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