Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Review: The Attachment Effect

The Attachment Effect: Exploring the Powerful Ways Our Earliest Bond Shapes Our Relationships and Lives by Peter Lovenheim was an easy book to read. Through our Foster Care Training, Shira and I have been taught about the importance of attachment. Along with basic safety, it's among our top priorities when caring for children. Whether it's establishing ourselves as reliable attachment figures, or helping birth-parents do the same, it's not unusual for us to explicitly think about attachment when we're in foster-parent mode.

To have an entire text who's thesis is that childhood attachment plays a critical role in one's life is both sensible and appreciated.

Lovenheim, to his credit, has taken the topic of attachment and looked at it from every angle. This goes beyond understanding your own attachment style and how your parenting may be impacting your children's style. He looked at how childhood attachment impacts marriage, dating, work, religious life and so on. After each chapter, I found myself recounting some part of it to Shira, usually underscoring how attachment shows up in our lives in unexpected ways.

The text takes the reader through the four broad types of attachment styles (secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized). Unlike many personality traits, like say being an introvert vs extrovert, being securely attached is decidedly advantageous. Yet, all is not lost for those who didn't win the attachment lottery. Lovenheim talks about how one can tweak or otherwise work-around his or her attachment style. He also makes the case for attachment style diversity in groups. Still, secure attachment is a tremendously helpful goal parents and caretakers should strive for.

One risk with the text is that it's possible to get too focused on attachment and try to use it to explain every quirk in ourselves or those around us. This isn't Lovenheim's intention, of course. Personalities are complex and attachment is just one factor that makes us act the way we do. 

Another aspect of the book that made the text so readable is much of it takes place in either Rochester, NY or Washington, DC. That's where I was born, and where I live. Add to that, that the author is Jewish and much of the text just feels familiar.

Between reading the book and taking the Experiences in Close Relationships questionnaire, my sense is that I am securely attached. Much credit goes to my parents for giving me this trait, the fruits of which are hard to quantify. Thanks Mom and Dad, you guys rock!

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