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

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  681 ratings  ·  55 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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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
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
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
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.
Dec 19, 2008 Maria rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Saehee Park
Feb 06, 2014 Saehee Park rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Synesthesia (SPIDERS!)
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!
Claudia Goodell
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
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
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
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
Helen Roll
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.

"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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Jan 29, 2008 Sasha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Amie M
I liked this book for the information I gleaned from it, but I did a lot of skimming over the very dense historical parts.
Sierra Haw
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Kit Fry
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.
Minerva Koenig
Though written from a clinical perspective as a history of attachment theory, BECOMING ATTACHED nevertheless explains the tenets of the theory clearly enough to provide insight to the casual reader. If you've ever wondered why you have trouble in relationships, I highly recommend reading this.
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!
Jenni Cavallero
I had to read this book for school, but I think I would like to read it again when I have some more free time to really pay attention to whats being said instead of just skimming to answer questions in class. It was very interesting and definitely a topic I would love to know more about.
Kristin B.
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.
if you've ever been cold to someone you love... you might be insecurely attached.

if you are thinking that it's good to let a babe "cry it out," you're wrong. go to those who need you.

be open and receptive when people respond to you.

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.
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  • Attachment in Psychotherapy
  • A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are
  • Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered
  • The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment And the Developing Social Brain
  • The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment
  • Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain
  • Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children
  • The Magic Years: Understanding & Handling the Problems of Early Childhood
  • Playing and Reality
  • The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation
  • Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective
  • A Shining Affliction: A Story of Harm and Healing in Psychotherapy
  • Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain
  • Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship
  • The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment
  • The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection
  • Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy
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)
More about Robert Karen...
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