John Bowlby

1907-1990

John's Background

Edward John Mostyn Bowlby was born on February 26, 1907 in London. He was raised in a family of six children, and his primary caregiver was a nanny. As was typical for upperclass families in Britain at that time, Bowlby had very little interaction with his mother. He developed a deep attachment to his nanny. The nanny left the household when Bowlby was four years old, and he experienced a sense of deep loss. He was sent to a boarding school at the age of seven; he later argued that boarding school was detrimental to his well-being. He did not believe that separation from the family was productive to children at such a young age, although he did theorize that removal from a dysfunctional home environment could potentially benefit an older child. Bowlby studied psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he excelled academically. He went on to study medicine at the University College Hospital in London and enroll in the Institute for Psychoanalysis. Upon graduation, he began working at the Maudsley Hospital as a psychoanalyst. Bowlby was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II and continued in the field of medicine as Deputy Director of the Tavistock Clinic. He worked briefly with the World Health Organization as a mental health consultant during the 1950s.

Attachment Theory

John Bowlby is a cognitive theorist. He talks about how we get attached to people and objects. "To say of a child (or older person) that he is strongly disposed to seek proximity to an contact with the that individual and go do so especially in specified conditions"


  • Pre-attachment(0-2 months)
  • Attachment-in-the-making (2-6 months)
  • Clear-cut attachment (6 months- 3 years)
  • Goal-corrected partnership(4 years onward)
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Real Life Examles

  1. A real life example would be when a kid that is 2 years old can't find there parents they would start crying because they need to be attached to them.