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Moving Beyond Self-InterestPerspectives from Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, and the Social Sciences$
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Stephanie L. Brown, R. Michael Brown, and Louis A. Penner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388107.001.0001

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Adult Attachment and Caregiving

Adult Attachment and Caregiving

Individual Differences in Providing a Safe Haven and Secure Base to Others

Chapter:
3 Adult Attachment and Caregiving
Source:
Moving Beyond Self-Interest
Author(s):

Mario Mikulincer

Phillip R. Shaver

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388107.003.0018

Over the past two decades, we have been working to transform attachment theory into a general theory of adult personality and behavior in social relationships. This has required expanding the theory to address many new issues that have arisen in studies of adults. More emphasis has been placed on what Bowlby, the creator of attachment theory, called “behavioral systems.” In the present chapter we focus on the two behavioral systems that govern support seeking and support provision in relationships, the attachment and caregiving systems. The first of these, attachment, governs one person’s (e.g., an infant’s) reliance on another person (e.g., a parent) for protection and emotional support, especially when fear is aroused or help is needed. The second behavioral system, caregiving, is the motivational heart of a parent’s (or other adult’s) response to a child’s distress or need for support. It is the core of all empathic, compassionate reactions to other people’s needs. We begin by explaining the behavioral system construct in some detail and show how individual differences in a person’s attachment system affect the functioning of the caregiving system. We review examples from the attachment research literature, focusing on what attachment theorists call providing a “safe haven” for others in distress. We also describe the few studies that have addressed how individual differences in attachment affect what theorists call providing a “secure base” for others’ exploration and self-development. We then sketch some new studies of this important issue.

Keywords:   attachment, attachment theory, attachment system, relationships, motivation, caregiving, caregiving system, empathic, compassionate, safe haven, secure base

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