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SOA13 106 with Jerome Kagan

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One Response to SOA13 106 with Jerome Kagan

  1. mgibson says:

    It seems challenging and perhaps a bit presumptive to offer commentary on this presentation. It represents one chapter on a larger discussion of attachment theory that covered several sessions with input from a series of noted presenters.

    Attachment theory, as represented in the now-classic Bowlby trilogy and expanded in the Strange Situation work led by Mary Ainsworth, focused attention of a generation of clinicians on the process of human development and the importance of relationship (most particularly mother-child) to this early drama. Bowlby conceptualized a biologically based bond between infant and parent (usually the mother) that is that is further influenced by environmental elements and interactive processes of infant and major caregiver from the early months of infancy. It was theorized that the infant’s early experiences, combined with parental attitudes and beliefs (which in turn may arise from their childhood attachment experiences), could affect the quality and nature of the attachment bond formed and the behavior and attitudes of the young child, contributing to the child’s developmental processes. The literature surrounding attachment theory, as it has evolved, is voluminous. A partial A-Z list of distinguished contributors would include Ainsworth, Bowlby, Bretherton, Byng-Hall, Cassidy, Cozolino, Fonagy, Lyons-Ruth, Main, Mikulencer, Schore, Siegel, Slade, Sroufe, Stern, Waters, Zeanah, and a lot of others.

    In this presentation, the very distinguished Jerome Kagan shares his insights and knowledge on the subject of early child development and the place of attachment in that process. Kagan pays his respects to the important work of Bowlby and the brilliance of Ainsworth, but then outlines his reservations. In particular, he finds that the notion that the quality of this early attachment persists is not supported by empirical data. In addition, he believes there are two factors that outweigh events in the child’s first year of life: temperament and social class.

    Kagan emphasizes the important role of history in considering this subject. Bowlby–and Erick Erickson–were writing in the post-World War II period, and that provided “the perfect context” for attachment theory to emerge. Added to this, are two very important roles: social class and early identification of children (parental qualities, gender, religion, class, education). Kagan offers empirical data in support of his assertions.

    The presentation ended with a discussion of the qualities of therapy and therapists, and the influence of culture and history.

    All in all, this was a thought-provoking, informative and important presentation by one of our most distinguished clinicians.

    Merrilee Nolan Gibson, Psy.D.
    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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