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Families, Attachment and Separations Prof. Rudi Dallos Child with a Parent in Prison Conference - 2012 Dept. of Clinical Psychology, Plymouth University.

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Presentation on theme: "Families, Attachment and Separations Prof. Rudi Dallos Child with a Parent in Prison Conference - 2012 Dept. of Clinical Psychology, Plymouth University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Families, Attachment and Separations Prof. Rudi Dallos Child with a Parent in Prison Conference - 2012 Dept. of Clinical Psychology, Plymouth University

2 Dynamic Systems “Many of the most intense emotions arise during the formation, the maintenance, the disruption and the renewal of attachment relationships. The formation of a bond is described as falling in love, maintaining a bond as loving someone, and losing a partner as grieving over someone. Similarly, threat of loss arouses anxiety, and actual loss gives rise to sorrow; whilst each of these situations is likely to arouse anger. The unchallenged maintenance of a bond is experienced as a source of security and the renewal of a bond as a source of joy.” (Bowlby, 1980)

3 First Separation

4 ACTIVITY : First Separation Remember back to the first time your were separated from your parents as a child What memories come to mind : images, scenes, words ? What feelings come to mind ? How were you comforted, prepared, reassured about this separation? What was the re-union like ?

5 DEVELOPMENT of ATTACHMENT STRATEGIES Attachment system triggered by DANGER ! ! Each Parents’ responses to child’s fear, distress, comfort seeking....... shapes the child’s attachment pattern to that parent

6 ATTACHMENT ALWAYS TWO SIDED Attachment always has TWO sides. Responses to non-availability of the attachment figures: PROTEST - anger (of hope and of despair) and VULNERABILITY – sadness One may be shown more than the other, or shown in rapid alternation.

7 ATTACHMENT STRATEGIES as ‘ATTEMPTED SOLUTIONS’ Secure: Parents consistently available when needed, belief of being able to trust others, aware that parents will be available, able to show positive and negative feelings Avoidant : Parents consistently not available when needed, belief that have to rely on self, suppress negative/needy feelings. Occasionally get needs met, especially by pleasing and caring for parents. BLAME SELF

8 ATTACHMENT STRATEGIES Anxious/ambivalent : Parents inconsistently available, learn that exaggerating show of negative feelings and needs elicits care, Occasionally get needs met by coercing parents BLAME OTHERS Extreme/Disorganised : Parents inconsistent and unavailable, neither self – reliance or coercion work to elicit care, parents may be frightening/frightened,

9 ATTACHMENT NEEDS - MUTUAL PARENT (care-giving & seeking) needs attachmentneeds CHILD (care–seeking & giving) Parents meet child’s needs but also child meets parents’ needs


11 MANAGEMENT OF FEELINGS : SELF CONTROL Young infant relies on parents/carers to help regulate their feelings – cannot do it by themselves Attachment – is turning to parents/carers to protect us and manage our feelings, fears, anxieties, distress Child gradually learns to manage their own feelings: Internalises how parents comfort them Internalises how parents regulate their own feelings – imitation, modelling Develop internal conversations, images, feelings Patterns of self comforting – embody the attachment styles turning inward to self ( avoidant) outwards to others ( anxious/ambivalent) Adult relationships – mutual source of comfort, assistance in managing, controlling, soothing each other’s feelings. Mutual - Escalation De-escalation

12 Challenge for Child with Parent in Prison Child needs both attachment figures to help deal with the loss/ separation from the parent Contact with the parent in prison may be sporadic Remaining parent may be distressed and / or angry and less available to help re-assure the child Family belief may be that contact makes the separation worse ? Family and wider context may be unsympathetic, so mother and rest of family feel blamed and shamed Feeling shame and guilt tends to close off support seeking and promotes repression of feelings Negative feelings – vulnerability and anger may intrude, break - through


14 Internal Working Models Beliefs and expectations about One’s own and other people’s behaviour Views of the SELF – How loveable, worthy and acceptable am I? How available and interested are others in me, and in caring for and looking after me?

15 Internal Working Models SECURE: able to use feelings and cognitions to make sense of events INSECURE: AVOIDANT: Shut down and deny feelings, display of distress is expected to annoy the caregiver so engage in pretending - put on false front – distrust of feelings AMBIVALENT: Expect carer to be inconsistent, not able to predict their availability or verbal promises. Develop clingy and coercive strategies to secure attention and caring - distrust of words DISORGANISED/EXTREME : Carer may be confusing, frightened and/or frightening, abusive, child finds it difficult to develop and predict a consistent pattern – distrust of words and feelings

16 Change and Re-Organisation: Triangulation MOTHER FATHER Child also has an attachment relationship with the parents’ relationships CHILD Relationship with each parent Pulled in to take sides Conflict in construing relationship with each parent Conflict in understanding impact on parent’s relationships ‘is it my fault?’ Conflict/stress


18 Father Arrested: Separation Anxiety Test Pictures

19 OK so the next one in this picture the young persons father is being arrested by the police.. what do you think that the young person might feel ? YP: Um really upset (pause) and maybe confused Yeah and why do you think they might feel like that? YP: Cos she may not know what’s going on why her dad’s been arrested (long pause) And what do you think the young person in the picture might do next YP: She may want, she might go, she might go in (pause) with her dad to make sure he’s gunna be alright Ok so she might go in after him mhmm is there anything else the young person might do ok and what do you think the parent in the picture might feel like? YP: Um embarrassed Can you say a bit more about that why might he feel embarrassed ? YP: Cos his daughter’s there seeing him getting arrested and (pause) he may not want her to know why he’s being arrested

20 Yep ok and have you got any ideas about what might happen after the picture was taken? YP: He err (pause) she may be just too embarrassed to speak to him anymore, anymore So they might not speak anymore uhuh.. ok and then I want you to think about if you were the young person in this picture what do you think you might feel like ? YP: I would feel pretty embarrassed and angry about it Yeah and what would make you feel like that? YP: Seeing her dad getting arrested Ok and what do you think you would do next if it was you in the picture ? YP: I’d probably try and stop them

21 Father Arrested: Separation Anxiety Test Pictures

22 T he young person’s father is being arrested by the police.. what do you think that the young person might feel ? YP: Embarrassed that his dads being arrested.. angry that his dads being arrested um what’s the word I cant think of it (pause) I’ll just have to say betrayed cos his dad would have said him not to do anything stupid not to get arrested and there he is getting arrested uhuh yeah YP: Setting a bad example And what do you think the young person might do next ? YP: I’d go up and hit hi for being so stupid and getting arrested and, go back home and (pause) I don’t know what he’d do it would be alright if I knew him mmmmm YP: Um he’d probably cos he looks quite angry at the police and making a fist with his hand so he might go and hit something And what do you think the dad in the picture might feel like ? YP: He’d probably feel stupid um (long pause) embarrassed as well cos he’s seeing his son seeing him get arrested (pause) Mmmm and what do you think the dad might do next ? Y P: not a lot he can do next cos he’s gunna be in prison (going jail) in jail you don’t know how long he’s been arrested or what he’s been arrested for or how long (pause)

23 Andrew Family Claire (9) Dave(9) Eddie(9) George Andy Sylvia Andy’s adult children George convicted of looking at photos of young girls, waiting sentence at this time. Eddie very loyal to him but also seen as a ‘very difficult’ child

24 Suggested Reading: Dallos R (2005) Attachment Narrative Therapy. Maidenhead: OU Press Dallos R and Vetere A (2009) Systemic therapy and Attachment Narratives; Applications in a range of clinical settings. London: Routledge Dallos R and Vetere A (2010) Emotions, Attachments and Systems. Context, 107, 8-10 Dubois-Comtios,K and Moss, E.( 2008) Beyond the dyad: do family interactions influence children’s attachment representations in middle childhood. Attachment and Human Development. 1094): 415-431 Vetere A and Dallos R (2008) Systemic therapy and attachment narratives. Journal of Family Therapy, 30, 374-385

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