Understanding Attachment Through The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation

The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation

The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation

This article was written in collaboration with one of our therapists, Mark Resch, whose work is informed by The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment. If you’re intrigued by this work, you might want to check out Mark’s bio in our therapist directory or the interview we did with him about his work.

The Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) is a significant new model that expands our understanding of human attachment. Dr. Patricia Crittenden developed the DMM because she observed that human behavior, particularly attachment behavior, is continually evolving. As a result, earlier models of attachment are too limited in their ability to capture subtle differences in behavior.

In clinical settings, the DMM can be used to understand attachment patterns in both children and adults. The DMM also emphasizes the role of culture and context in shaping our attachment patterns. And the DMM has been proven to be valid across cultures. It recognizes that different cultures have different norms and expectations regarding relationships, which in turn influence how individuals within those cultures express and seek attachment.

Attachment is influenced by both biological factors and environmental experiences.

Attachment is influenced by both biological factors and environmental experiences.

The DMM expands on the original attachment theory proposed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, which emphasizes the importance of early caregiver-infant interactions in shaping attachment patterns. While the traditional attachment theory primarily focuses on infant attachment, the DMM broadens the scope to encompass attachment across the lifespan, including childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

The patterns of attachment we form in our early years are not static, but instead, they adapt and mature over time in response to our changing circumstances and needs. These patterns help us navigate the social world and protect ourselves from perceived threats. The strategies we use can vary greatly, ranging from the more cooperative and self-reliant to the more controlling or compulsive.

Continuity and Change ...

Continuity and Change …

Attachment continuity refers to the idea that the quality of early attachment relationships can have long-lasting effects on subsequent relationships and attachment patterns. Despite the presence of continuity, attachment patterns can also change over time.

Continuity in the DMM is reflected in the understanding that early attachment experiences leave a lasting impact on an individual’s attachment patterns. The quality of early attachment relationships, particularly with primary caregivers, plays a significant role in shaping attachment patterns and setting a foundation for subsequent relationships. For example, if an infant experiences balanced attachment in early childhood, they are more likely to develop a balanced attachment style in later years.

However, the DMM also emphasizes the potential for change in attachment patterns. It recognizes that individuals have the capacity for adaptation, growth, and the ability to modify their attachment strategies in response to new experiences and developmental challenges. New relationships, life transitions, and therapeutic interventions can all contribute to changes in attachment patterns.

One important aspect of the DMM is its focus on the concept of attachment as ‘self-protective strategies’.

These are behaviors developed in response to specific threats or dangers in our environment. According to the DMM, our attachment strategies are fundamentally designed to protect us and enhance our survival. Because they were most likely beneficial in the context in which they were formed, they can be over-used or applied in circumstances where they are not appropriate. These strategies may appear dysfunctional when they appear in a different or later context.

One important aspect of the DMM is its focus on the concept of attachment as 'self-protective strategies'.

The DMM identifies two primary categories of defense strategies: hyperactivating and deactivating strategies.

Hyperactivating Strategies:

These strategies involve intensifying attachment behaviors to elicit attention, proximity, and caregiving from others. Individuals who employ hyperactivating strategies often fear rejection or abandonment and may have experienced inconsistent or unpredictable caregiving in the past. Some common hyperactivating strategies include:

    • Clinging: The individual becomes excessively dependent on others and seeks constant reassurance and support. They may display clingy and demanding behaviors to maintain closeness.
    • Excessive Self-Disclosure: The individual may overshare personal information or emotions to establish a sense of intimacy and connection with others.
    • Preoccupation with the Attachment Figure: The individual constantly thinks about their attachment figure and worries about their availability and responsiveness. They may seek constant reassurance and engage in monitoring behaviors.
    • Heightened Emotional Expressiveness: The individual may exhibit intense emotional reactions, including anger, sadness, or anxiety, to draw attention and caregiving responses from others.
    • Help-Rejecting Complaining: The individual simultaneously seeks help or support while rejecting or dismissing the assistance offered. This strategy allows them to maintain a sense of control and avoid disappointment or dependency.

Deactivating Strategies

These strategies involve suppressing or minimizing attachment-related needs and emotions to protect oneself from potential rejection or disappointment. Individuals who employ deactivating strategies often have experienced inconsistent or intrusive caregiving in the past. Some common deactivating strategies include:

    • Emotional Withdrawal: The individual avoids expressing or acknowledging vulnerable emotions and tends to distance themselves from intimate relationships.
    • Self-Reliance: The individual becomes overly independent and self-sufficient, relying on themselves rather than seeking support or closeness from others.
    • Minimizing Attachment Needs: The individual downplays the importance of close relationships and may believe that they do not need others to meet their emotional needs.
    • Intellectualization: The individual may use cognitive processes to analyze and detach from emotional experiences, emphasizing logic and reason over feelings.
    • Denial of Attachment-Related Pain: The individual may deny or dismiss their attachment-related distress or loss, avoiding acknowledgment of their emotional vulnerability.

It’s important to note that individuals can employ a combination of hyperactivating and deactivating strategies depending on the context and their attachment history.

The Dynamic-Maturational Model offers a comprehensive and nuanced view of attachment.

The Dynamic-Maturational Model offers a comprehensive and nuanced view of attachment.

It reminds us that our attachment patterns are not rigid, but rather are adaptable and responsive to our ever-changing environment. By understanding this, we can better appreciate the complexity of human behavior and the resilience of the human spirit. By understanding a person’s attachment strategies, therapists can better comprehend their behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. This understanding can provide valuable insights into the individual’s struggles and guide the therapeutic intervention.

As always, if you are struggling with attachment issues, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Remember, understanding is the first step towards healing. You can contact us today to find a therapist.

Also by Mark Resch: Overlapping Symptoms in Mental Health Diagnoses: A Fresh Perspective