Letters to the EditorAn Elaboration on the Distinction BetweenControversial Parenting and Therapeutic PracticesVersus Deve...
374   Curtner-Smith et al. / AN ELABORATIONthan witchcraft can be called modern medicine. We are      behaviors. Most of a...
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An Elaboration on the Distinction Between Controversial Parenting and Therapeutic Practices Versus Developmentally Appropriate Attachment Parenting


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An Elaboration on the Distinction Between Controversial Parenting and Therapeutic Practices Versus Developmentally Appropriate Attachment Parenting

  1. 1. Letters to the EditorAn Elaboration on the Distinction BetweenControversial Parenting and Therapeutic PracticesVersus Developmentally Appropriate AttachmentParenting: A Comment on the APSAC TaskForce Report THE TASK FORCE USE OF THE TERMR ecently, a Task Force comprising scholars who ATTACHMENT PARENTINGare members of the American Professional Societyon the Abuse of Children (APSAC) published in this The Task Force report notes,journal an informative report titled, “Report of the The attachment therapy controversy has centeredAPSAC Task Force on Attachment Therapy, Reactive most broadly on the use of what is known as “holdingAttachment Disorder, and Attachment Problems” therapy” (Welch, 1988) and coercive, restraining or(Chaffin et al., 2006). The Task Force report aversive procedures such as deep tissue massage,reviewed controversial parenting approaches and aversive tickling, punishments related to food andtherapies and made recommendations for assess- water intake, enforced eye contact, requiringment and treatment of attachment disorders children to submit totally to adult control over all(Chaffin et al., 2006). The report was endorsed their needs, barring children’s access to normalby the American Psychological Association’s social relationships outside the primary parent orDivision 37 and the Division 37 Section on Child caretaker, encouraging children to regress to infantMaltreatment. status, reparenting, and attachment parenting [italics added] or techniques designed to provoke cathartic We, the founders of Attachment Parenting emotional discharge. (p. 83)International (API), an organization that facilitatesthe formation of parent education support groups, The Task Force report goes on to acknowledgeand members of the Attachment Parenting thatInternational–Research Group (API-RG), agree withthe report of the APSAC Task Force and its conclu- the term attachment parenting may have varioussions regarding the detrimental effects of controver- meanings. In a less controversial context, the termsial parenting practices that have been arbitrarily refers to practices of maintaining close physicallabeled by others as attachment parenting. However, we proximity between mothers and newborns, which isbelieve that there is significant confusion regarding argued to promote healthy attachment. This is notthe appropriate definition of the term attachment par- the meaning discussed here. (Chaffin et al., 2006,enting and that the Task Force report may have inad- p. 79)vertently contributed to this confusion. We believethat clarity in this regard is central to progress in this By using the term attachment parenting when refer-controversial area and so wish to offer our thoughts ring to the controversial, abusive practices, the Taskon this important matter. Force confuses the controversial practices with the developmentally appropriate parenting practicesCHILD MALTREATMENT, Vol. 11, No. 4, November 2006 373-374 that are also called attachment parenting. We believeDOI: 10.1177/1077559506292635 that the controversial practices described by Chaffin© 2006 Sage Publications et al. (2006) can no more be called attachment parenting 373
  2. 2. 374 Curtner-Smith et al. / AN ELABORATIONthan witchcraft can be called modern medicine. We are behaviors. Most of all, regardless of a child’s age,concerned that by using the term attachment parenting attachment parenting refers to a parent’s ability toto refer to controversial, abusive practices, the Task empathize with how a child is feeling and to how aForce may unintentionally discourage practitioners parent views those feelings as important and worthyor parents from endorsing or engaging in parenting of parental response.behaviors that have been demonstrated by research Hopefully, the distinction between controversial,to promote secure parent–child attachment bonds, abusive parenting and therapeutic practices versuswhich are necessary for positive child mental health. developmentally appropriate attachment parentingWe suggest that in future reports, the Task Force is now clearer. Moreover, it is hoped that practitionersrefer to the controversial, abusive therapeutic and and therapists aiming to promote secure parent–parenting practices as just what they are: controversial child attachment relationships now understand thatand abusive. attachment parenting is very different from the con- troversial, abusive practices that are appropriately criticized in the Task Force report.AN APPROPRIATE DEFINITION OFATTACHMENT PARENTING Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith, PhD, CFLE University of Alabama Developmentally appropriate attachment parent- Wendy Middlemiss, PhD, CFLEing practices are based on mainstream psychological Pennsylvania State University Shenangoattachment theory which was first conceived by John Katherine Green, PhDBowlby (1951, 1982) and Mary Ainsworth (1982; Capella UniversityAinsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). The corner- Ann D. Murraystone of developmentally appropriate attachment Kansas State Universityparenting is parental emotional sensitivity to children. Miranda Barone, PhDEmotional sensitivity refers to a parent’s anticipating California State University, Long Beachand being sensitive to a child’s needs and then Jeanne Stolzer, PhDattempting to meet those perceived needs. Attachment University of Nebraska at Kearney Lysa Parker, CFLEparenting includes warm, affectionate responses to a Attachment Parenting Internationalchild’s bids for attention. This style of parenting is Barbara Nicholsonneither controlling nor coercive. Other parenting Attachment Parenting Internationalbehaviors that make up the attachment style of par-enting include infant-focused prenatal activities; REFERENCESbreastfeeding, when possible, to encourage close- Ainsworth, M. D., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978).ness and healthy development; maintaining close Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation.physical proximity through frequent touch, carrying, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.and physical contact and stimulation with the infant; Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1982). Attachment: Retrospect and prospect. In C. M. Parkes & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), The place ofestablishing nighttime routines that support an infant’s attachment in human behavior (pp. 3-30). New York: Basic Books.need for closeness; and avoiding long caregiver– Bowlby, J. (1951). Maternal care and mental health. Bulletin of thechild separations. As children age, attachment par- World Health Organization, 3, 355-534. Bowlby, J. (1982). A control systems approach to attachmententing continues to include age-appropriate proximity behavior. In Attachment: Vol. 1 (2nd ed., pp. 235-262). Newmaintenance behaviors, age-appropriate levels York: Basic Books.of touch, a democratic style of communication and Chaffin, M., Hanson, R., Saunders, B. E., Nichols, T., Barnett, D., Zeanah, C., et al. (2006). Report of the APSAC Task Force onproblem solving, and parents’ use of inductive rea- attachment therapy, reactive attachment disorder, and attach-soning techniques to help children learn positive ment problems. Child Maltreatment, 11, 76-89. CHILD MALTREATMENT / NOVEMBER 2006