Autism and Attachment

ASD and Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

What Is Bowlby's Theory of Attachment?

Bowlby was a Developmental Psychologist who studies infants and their attachment to their mothers in 1982. From her research, she discovered that there were different classifications that infants could fit into: secure, insecure, distressed, and disorganized


secure- A secure infant will feel uncomfortable and begin to cry when not in the presence of the mother, however the child can be consoled by the mothers presence


insecure- an insecure infant will not display any symptoms of being uncomfortable without the mother present


distressed- a distressed infant will feel uncomfortable and begin to cry when not in the presence of the mother, however, when the mother returns, the infant will be inconsolable


Disorganized- a disorganized infant will not have a response that is categorical in any other category

John Bowlby's 44 Juvenile Thieves: Methodology and the Attachment Theory

Normal Distributition

To test an infant's attachment, researchers would put the baby in a room with the mother. A stranger would enter the room while the mother is playing with the child. The mother would then leave the room, and researchers would record how the baby would react. The mother would then reenter and researchers would record how the baby would react to the mother's reapparance.

The results found that

securely attached infants- 60%

Insecurely attached infants- 20%

distressed infants-10%

disorganized infants-10%

What if my child is not securely attached?

It may be assumed that a child that is not securely attached, especially ones with disorganized behavior patterns, must have some sort of mental disorder. One of the first disorders brought to mind is Autism. So the question is to be asked


Does my child have autism?


The answer: No!


Just because your child may not be securely attached does NOT mean that your child is in any way mentally ill or have autism!

How Attachment stacks up to Autism

  • Many people believe that "if a child is not securely attached, then the child must be autistic". This is assumed based on how the infant reacts in a certain situation and the parallels with ASD.
  • The reality, however, was discovered by John D Haltigan, in a lab study that compared the attachment of normal children and the attachment of at-risk children.
  • Haltigan found that children who were at risk still had the same distribution between the categories as normal children