Attachment Theory: Introduction to Infant Attachment

Online Course Materials:    ArticlesArticles    VideosVideos   

Developed by Leah Robbins, Ph.D.

General Course Description

Among the earliest themes in psychological research regarding human relationships is the study of the child’s relationship or attachment to the mother. While there has been a great deal of research on the organized patterns of attachment, disorganized/disoriented patterns have only recently received attention. Disorganized Attachment has gained more focus as a result of its theoretical link with maltreatment and later trauma-related psychopathology. Disorganized Attachment has been associated with dissociation both concurrently and predictively. Furthermore, quality of attachment does not only affect a child emotionally; it can have both positive and negative physiological effects as well. In sum, attachment organization is associated with protective resilience on one end, with secure organized attachment patterns and a vulnerability to psychopathology with infant Insecurity and Disorganization on the other end. Given the impact of attachment across the lifespan, knowledge about attachment theory can be of particular value. Therapists can use attachment theory to gain understanding of clients’ issues and how clients relate to significant others in their life. The therapeutic relationship can be utilized to heal unhealthy attachment patterns. How we attach to others affects how we regulate stress and emotions and the toll that takes on our body. A healthy attachment is at the core of our emotional and physical well-being.

In this introductory course, there are 5 videos (transcripts provided), a slide show, and three documents for review. The first article provides a thorough review of the literature on attachment theory and the relationship between trauma and attachment. Included in the review are publications from leading experts, such as Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby, Elizabeth Carlson, Alan Sroufe, Dante Cicchetti, Mary Main, Erik Hesse, Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Alan Schore, and Dan Seigel. The Powerpoint presentation summarizes the results of a study on Disorganized Attachment in military families. The study explored trauma history, maternal affective communication, narrative errors, dissociation and Disorganized Attachment. These materials are followed by two articles that focus on the diagnostic categories associated with attachment. Finally is a set of videos depicting aspects of attachment theory. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Educational Objectives

    This course will teach the participant to:

  • Summarize Attachment Theory
  • Describe measures used to assess infant attachment
  • Describe patterns of attachment
  • List the DSM criteria for making the diagnosis of Reactive attachment disorder
  • Report on the relationship between trauma and attachment.
  • Review the results of a study on Disorganized Attachment in military families


  • Belsky, J., & Nezworski, T. M. (Eds.). (2015). Clinical implications of attachment. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (2013). In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association
  • Reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood. (2013). In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Course Syllabus:

Overview of Attachment Theory

  • Key figures in development of attachment theory
  • Types of attachment defined
    • Secure attachment
    • Avoidant Attachment
    • Anxious-Ambivalent Attachment

Disorganized/Disoriented Attachment, Dissociation and Trauma

  • Behavioral characteristics of Disorganized Attachment in infants
  • Genetic factors in the prediction of disorganization
  • The role of trauma in Disorganized Attachment
  • Psychophysiology of Disorganized Attachment
  • Etiology of dissociation
  • Genetic vs. Environmental causes of dissociation
  • Characteristics of dissociative behavior in children
  • Assessment of dissociation
  • The role of dissociation in Psychopathology and Disorganized Attachment
  • Implications of Disorganized Attachment in Infancy
  • Attachment and dissociation in Adulthood
  • Caregiving and Disorganized Attachment
  • Intergenerational Effects of Trauma

Assessing Infant Attachment

  • Ainsworth Strange Situation

Trauma and Attachment

  • Research findings on Disorganized Attachment in a military sample

DSM Criteria for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Attachment and Daycare

CE Badge Created with Sketch. 6 CE

Cost: $59.00

Top of Page >