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Becoming Attached: Unfolding the Mystery of the Infant-Mother Bond and Its Impact on Later Life

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  921 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
With keen insights, compelling arguments, and challenging theories, psychotherapist Robert Karen presents an eye-opening, lively treatment of the mystery of how personalities are formed and what children need in order to thrive emotionally.
Hardcover, 509 pages
Published March 1st 1994 by Warner Books (NY) (first published 1994)
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Jan 21, 2011 Georgeanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still the best book on attachment theory for the lay reader, in my opinion. This should be required reading in every intro psych course, for all policy makers, family law attorneys and judges, and for anyone contemplating parenthood.

The book is, suprisingly, not dated, given it is more than 12 years old and given the pace of recent new knowledge in brain science. In fact, developments in neuroscience since this book came out have continued, for the most part, to substantiate Bowlby and Ainswort
Oct 14, 2008 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in childcare, parenting, child development issues
I really enjoyed this book and read it with fervour of a good novel. Taking us from the dark days when babies were thought to be mere blobs who had no thoughts or feelings. Psychology was purely behaviourist, a baby crying was considered a random act that if responded to would re-enforce the behaviour, resulting in a spoiled cry baby. These pernicious parenting ideas still exist today and they could not be further from the truth.

My heart wrenched with the stories of traumatised children who were
Dec 31, 2011 Amanda rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised at how readable Karen's writing style is. The book is essentially a slow walk through the history of attachment history, from the beginnings of the field through the early 90s. I appreciated Karen's care in pointing out the potentially racist, classist, and sexist pitfalls in the work and either acknowledges them or explains the intent.

After finishing the book, many of the specific studies and details are blurred but the key points are easy to articulate:

*Babies need l
Jul 17, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
In this wonderfully written account of the growth and development of attachment theory in psychology, Robert Karen patiently outlines the main figures and the competing schools of thought that went into the still-growing field explaining how children attain their sense of selves and their psychological development. In other hands, I could definitely see the long account of academic debates becoming tedious, but Karen guides the reader through the morass with a sure hand, drawing connections betw ...more
Jan 13, 2011 Tania rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely fabulous. Everyone should read it before having children. Even if you have children, read it. It will break your heart, but it will enlighten you. Children are the most special of all beings and are to be treasured. Our relationships with them are so delicate, yet the strongest one may ever have. Seal the bond and create a strong attachment from the very beginning. It directly affects all future relationships.
Spider the Doof Warrior
Only problem is he gets too Freudian and I'm sorry but Bowlby and Piaget just knew more about child development than Freud did. I just don't buy penis envy or the Oedipus complex. If he spent less time on such nonsense we would KNOW that trauma can affect how a child develops for life ages ago!
Aurore Henze
Another book I "had" to read for my orgonomy class- but so glad I did. Karen does an excellent job with presenting clinical information, biographical information and intimate case studies. Very compelling and a mammoth presentation on attachment. It was a bit overwhelming at times and perhaps it is more intended for clinical audiences, but it was still very moving and brought many different thoughts to me about my own practice and my own motherhood. This book inspired me to write my own books on ...more
I really want to say something that inspires everyone that reads this review go out and buy the book. Particularly parents. But since it is a little academic so if I write a rave review then you might see me as kind of dull and boring. However, I have read a slew of parenting books and this book may have had the most impact on how I parent...more specifically how I understand myself as a parent and caregiver and thus modifying how I parent. Like I said, it does lean a bit on the academic side of ...more
Oct 14, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
217 – disoriented babies have mothers who suffered early losses
247 – parents cannot tolerate seeing their unmet needs expressed by their children; if a mother was ashamed of being needy as a child, she cannot allow her child to be needy
317 – Messiness may grow out of an uncontrolled emotionality. In such a person, every feeling may run to excess in the way it is expressed, and yet little is felt profoundly and even less is understood.
325 – It’s very difficult to get people to look after other pe
Aug 23, 2008 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Introduction and first chapter really grab you. I expect this to be a fascinating book!

I finally finished this incredible book filled with penetrating analysis of the early relationships that a child develops with his/her mother (father) and how those relationships (even in the first 10 days of life) influence ones psychological health in future years – in fact throughout ones entire life. Attachments are classified as either Secure or Anxious, with the latter having two subcategories: Avoidentl
Saehee Park
Feb 06, 2014 Saehee Park rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Saehee by: Professor
I've been introduced to various theories while studying child development throughout my college years and during my last semester, I decided to study deeper into Attachment theory. I found this theory to be the most relate-able to my own personal life style and my professor told me about this book I just fell in love with the book and more so with the Attachment Theory. The book helped me answer many questions regarding my own personal relationships with my parents and past relationships.

This b
Jan 09, 2014 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Attachment" has become a tremendously polarizing word in lay parenting. It's associated with extremes and celebrities and magazine covers with women nursing their five year olds. It's an all or nothing Dr Sears empire of philosophy. Only what no one tells lay parents by and large is that before it became commercialized (and even after) real attachment is none of those things. This book is the book I wanted. It was the readable scientific accounting of attachment theory, not attachment parenting ...more
Sep 04, 2007 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Only about half way through this one. Though it isn't exactly a fast read, I'm finding it well worth it. I wish I'd read it when my first child was born. I'm reading it now with the context of my ten years' worth of parenting two kids as well as my own childhood. I enjoy learning about the research and the politics behind developmental child psychology -- it gives a much deeper look that the average parenting book off the shelf.

While the author's style is not super dynamic, it is interesting an
Jan 29, 2008 Sasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: psychiatrists
This book is an excellent review of the chronology of the development of attachment theory, covering all of the largest contributors. I was fascinated to read about the politics and controversy involved and the various research studies. The book was written over 16 years ago and leaves you wanting to find out what has been discovered in that time. I would think this book is a little too advanced for non-professional mental health readers. It was an enjoyable read and gave me much food for though ...more
Claudia Goodell
Sep 07, 2014 Claudia Goodell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A staple book and topic for anyone interested in human development. I found my passion for the attachment theory while attaining a BS in psychology, and was fortunate to study and work with one of the leaders in this field, Tom Bower, who worked with Bowlby. I still believe healthy attachment is a predictor for success in life, and conversly unhealthy attachments can predict antisocial behavior later in life. I am a proponent of teaching healthy attachment behavior in parenting classes, but earl ...more
Nov 15, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting, unproven, too much focus on freudian analytics. i think we've arrived at a fairly good nature/nurture balance since this book was written in the early 90s. i also feel comforted that any parental hiccups during the first 18 months are not necessarily sentencing a child to misery.

the 3 categories (secure, avoidant, ambivalent) are too broad. also, in every example i can think of, to include myself, characteristics of all three have been in evidence over the course of a lifetime. i'm
Helen Roll
Feb 12, 2014 Helen Roll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Incredibly insightful and engaging. Rather than throwing a whole lot of theory at the reader, Karen is a storyteller from page one. By giving the history of the development of attachment theory, and leaning heavily on the personal narratives of pioneers in the field - most especially Bowlby and Ainsworth - this book is extremely accessible to the lay reader, and builds a strong case for the consideration of attachment factors in a variety of spheres.

Anthony Garcia
Sep 05, 2015 Anthony Garcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is excellent. It interweaves the history of the field of attachment research with the observations and published findings of many psychologists.

I think it's a worthwhile read for every parent, and if you want to take an honest look at yourself to ask if childhood experiences are still at play in your choices and decisions, this an excellent book to read.

I strongly recommend it to anyone with an inquiring mind.
May 16, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book very much opened my eyes to why I'm the way I am. My therapist recommended it to me, and it was very helpful to read about others and what I can do to not let my detachment affect my relationships. It also freaked me out and made me not want to ever have kids because of all the pressures to not have a detached kiddo!
Mar 10, 2013 Lynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A history of Attachment Theory (Bowlby, Ainsworth, Main, et al) from the POV of analytical psychology.

Quite good, though a bit long about 3/4 of the way through. If you are neck deep in attachment ideas, this is a source of information on how Bowlby's ideas were first generated, researched, rejected by mainstream analysts, reviled and revered.
Jan 04, 2011 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You actually cannot find a bad review of this book on GoodReads. While it may start to drag on a bit for a casual reader, it's only because Karen seems so comprehensive in his review of attachment theory. If you are interested in parenting or the ways child development can affect personality, this is a great place to start.
Jun 27, 2010 Letha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm about half way through this book and am totally fascinated by all aspects of the experience. Karen is doing a fantastic job of making the densely layered history and varied characters that have contributed to the evolution of attachment theory both assessable and interesting. I am deeply engaged with this book.. Very impressed...high praises.
Aug 14, 2013 Kit rated it really liked it
Shelves: family-finance
Wish there was more on the latest research. Though the explanation for how confusing later studies are is understandable.

My conclusion:
Quality day care is not harmful: 8% increased risk that child experiences insecure attachment. Bigger attachment issues occurs due to quality of parenting and primary care.
Sierra Haw
Nov 25, 2012 Sierra Haw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, parenting
This book was essentially a walk-through of attachment theory from The work of John Bowlby to present day. "Becoming Attached" was very detailed and well referenced and I found that made it read more like a research paper than a book. It took me quite awhile to slug through it, but is definitely the best book on attachment theory that I have read.
Jan 19, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok, this looks like just another silly psychobabble book, or a self-help book, but it is neither--it's a history of attachment theory, including all the crazy experiments psychologists used to do--fascinating stuff.
Jodi Kendall
Nov 13, 2015 Jodi Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is thorough (long) and I only read the chapters I was primarily interested in, but they were so good.  The mother-infant bond shapes entire societies. Much to consider here, for parents, parents-to-be, and those dealing with attachment disorders in children. 
Kristin B.
Oct 22, 2007 Kristin B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I'm reading this book with my Director and fellow therapists. I think this book offers incredible insight to the development of human beings, how we form attachments in relationships and skills in parenting. I'm about 1/2 way through and have already gained so much insight.
Apr 07, 2008 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I did not completely read this whole book, but used it as a reference for my own growing psychology library. It has some great points and portions. I know I will continue to revisit it in my practice.
Jessica Fordice
Apr 26, 2012 Jessica Fordice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good book, everyone should read. All about the crucial and pivotal research that was done in the early to mid 1900s on the effects that early attachment to a caregiver has on children as they grow up. Amazing how much the strength of the attachment impacts so much later in life!
Apr 09, 2016 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book offers a comprehensive overview of attachment styles and a fascinating historical perspective on how attachment theory was developed and interpreted through unique social, political, and psychological lenses.
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Robert Karen is a clinical psychologist in private practice and an award-winning author. He is Assistant Clinical Professor at the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University.

(back cover of Becoming Attached)
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