Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Adult Attachment Interview

As part of the same ATTACh Conference workshop with Michael Trout, Karen Buckwalter, LCSW from Chaddock presented the Adult Attachment Scale. The Adult Attachment Interviewis a twenty question guided clinical interview with a specific scoring protocol. It was developed by Mary Main and her colleagues, and has extensive research validation to support it. A parent’s score on the Adult Attachment Interview is highly correlated with the attachmenmt reaction of their child in the strange person test.

The questions themselves can be the beginning of thoughtful discussions. They include questions such as:

• Choose five adjectives or words that reflect your relationship with your mother starting from as far back as you can remember in early childhood.

• To which parent did you feel the closest, and why?

• When you were upset as a child, what would you do?

• Did you ever feel rejected as a young child?

• What is your relationship with your parents (or remaining parent) like for you now as an adult?

The carefully trained administrator who understands the scoring system can group the adult into one of five categories:

• Autonomous: They value attachment relationships, describe them in a balanced way and as influential.

• Earned autonomous: Someone whose childhood does not contain good relationship experiences, but who has nevertheless achieved some autonomy, probably through other non-family caring relationships.

• Dismissing: They show memory lapses, minimize negative aspects of their childhoods and deny personal impact on relationships. Their positive descriptions are often contradicted or unsupported. This Karen called act and don’t feel

• Preoccupied: Experience continuing preoccupation with their own parents, have angry or ambivalent representations of the past. This would be feel and don’t act

• Unresolved/Disorganized: Show trauma resulting from unresolved loss or abuse.

Karen was careful to point out that people’s scores and types can evolve through positive adult relationships.

Karen presented several possible uses for this interview. Testing therapists and staff who work with traumatized children helps them become more self aware of their own backgrounds and styles. This will help them understand some of their reactions to individual children and families. Testing foster parents has the same benefits. Some audience members have been using the interview with some foster parents, and reported that others are very resistant to doing it.

This interview offers fascinating ways to develop the self-reflection that is so essential in our work.


Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD said...

Actually, it is the Adult Attachment Interview. The questions can be found on-line if you google Adult Attachment Interview.
For clinicians who wish to incorporate this into their work two good resources are:
Steele & Steele,
Clinical Applications of The Adult Attachment Interview. NY: Guilford Press.
My DVD: Assessing Caregiver Reflective Capacity, Commitment, Insightfulness, and Sensitivity, 2010, available on Amazon
or at the Website

Patricia Wilcox, LCSW said...

I made the change, thank you for the information. And thanks for providing the references. I enjoyed meeting you at the ATTACh Conference!

Dr. Becker-Weidman said...

And I enjoyed meeting you in person