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The Cultural Nature of AttachmentContextualizing Relationships and Development$
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Heidi Keller and Kim A. Bard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036900

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036900.001.0001

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Is the Mother Essential for Attachment?

Is the Mother Essential for Attachment?

Models of Care in Different Cultures

(p.109) 5 Is the Mother Essential for Attachment?
The Cultural Nature of Attachment

Heidi Keller

Nandita Chaudhary

The MIT Press

Attachment theory is predicated on the assumption of dyadic relationships between a child and one or a few significant others. Despite its recognition of alloparenting in some cultural environments, current attachment research is heavily biased toward the mother as the major attachment figure in the life of the developing child. This chapter presents evidence that diverse childcare arrangements exist in cultures that differ from Western norms and shows how these are equally normative in their respective cultural contexts. In these settings, alloparenting is neither chaotic nor unstable; it is the norm, not the exception. In all environments, infant care is far more than just an isolated, biopsychological phenomenon: it is an activity deeply imbued with cultural meanings, values, and practices. To account for these multiple levels, the construct of attachment must shift its emphasis away from an individual child toward the network of relationships surrounding a child. Overwhelming evidence on diverse childcare arrangements in non-Western cultures calls the putatively universal model of attachment (derived from the Bowlby-Ainsworth paradigm and still widely applied today) into question. In support of future research, this chapter proposes an inclusive reconceptualization of attachment, informed by research from non-Western cultural settings.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, attachment theory, diversity in child rearing, reconceptualization of attachment, alloparenting, multiple caregivers, sibling care, models of caregiving, grandparenting

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