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Becoming Attached: Unfolding the Mystery of the Infant-Mother Bond and Its Impact on Later Life Hardcover – March 1, 1994

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Getting to Calm: The Early Years: Cool-headed Strategies for Raising Caring, Happy, and Independent 3-7 Year Olds by Laura Kastner
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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

The complex topic of attachment theory is opened up to parents, as well as other interested adults, by putting issues of child development, usually couched in antiseptic academic parlance, in lay terms. Ranging through historical developments in the field, Karen, formerly a psychotherapist in the pediatric unit of Bellevue Hospital, attempts to demystify ``mother love,'' or the bond babies have with their primary caregiver (Karen is also concerned with what happens to babies when that bond is disrupted). The author introduces and defends the English researcher John Bowlby, whose intuitions in the late 1930's about ``maternal attachment'' would be borne out not by his research but by that of Mary Ainsworth decades later. It may be historians and would-be child psychologists to whom this book matters most, for the delineation of who contributed what to the field, and when, puts both attachment theory and psychoanalytic theory into a context of early speculations, later advances, due championing, and (some) tarnishment. Amid occasionally florid prose, and with a tendency to characterize figures as either brilliant or great, Karen delves into what theorists have believed to be children's earliest feelings of rage and helplessness, love and security. Wittily titled chapters with effective cliffhanger endings will carry readers along on the tide of discovery and naysaying, furious debate, and placid acceptance of what these days is considered universally scandalous treatment of children (from abandonment of orphans to the analysis by her father of Anna Freud). Karen's work makes clear that, regardless of the path of scientific thought, there are newly minted, common-sense reasons for giving offspring all the love and respect we can. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


"Robert Karen has a rare capacity for presenting complex psychological ideas in language that is accessible to nonspecialists....Karen's book makes fascinating reading and constitutes a considerable achievement."--Contemporary Psychology

"Robert one of our smartest and most accessible guides to the arcane world of psychoanalytic theory and research."--Elle

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 509 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; First edition (March 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446516341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446516341
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on June 4, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Extremely well-written book in that it is easily understood by the lay person, yet gracefully expresses complex ideas and processes, and is such a complete overview of attachment theory as to be of as much use to the professional as the lay person.
Attachment theory addresses child development in terms of whether or not there is a loving attachment to a parental figure. Through following the history of the development of attachment theory the author explains the theory, the evidence supporting it, and the effects upon the individual.
While supportive of attachment theory, Karen is careful to explain the views of its critics, and to show how those criticisms often improved the theory.
I am not a psychologist, but someone with Borderline Personality Disorder trying to make sense of my life in order to improve it. Karen's work helped me enormously. His scientific orientation to provide good theory grounded in reseach and evidence is fused with his warm humanity and concern for individuals and society.
Therefore I recommend the book to professional psychologists, teachers, makers of public policy, and others who deal with children. But also I recommend it highly to those on the quest for self-understanding.
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202 of 209 people found the following review helpful By M. Corrigan on November 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This review probably won't do this book justice. I'm analytical, Master's Degree in Statistics kind of guy, yea, stoic. Psychology. Yea that stuff is for quacks. In graduate school I worked with enough of them trying to squeeze any interpretation out of their "data".

So I have one of those life altering experiences. I go to Iraq as a reservist, spend sixteen months away from my wife and job, come back to a wife that doesn't love me anymore and doesn't know if she can. PTSD, Generalized Anxiety, and Depression all in one. But other than the PTSD symptoms, all of the other things have constantly been in my life working mysteriously in the background.

I go to a shrink as my marriage has fallen apart and I have no one to talk to and she brings up Attachment. I have never heard of it, so the scientist in me wants to learn anything and everything before our next meeting. I next day this book and begin reading "my life away" online and in the book. Or more apropriately "reading my life back." I'm fitting into this mold that is everything I don't want to be, but am and jealous of the mold that is everything that I am not, I'm being divorced by a woman that has been hardening my mold for the last 5 years. This book altered my perspective on so many things. I identified with so many others. It gave me a framework and definitions for defense mechanisims like (passive agressiveness and sublimation), a way to look at my childhood, and although the odds are against me being Ambivalently Attached and seeking Secure Attachment, I can now somewhat accurately "self-reflect" on my life experiences.
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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Rocco B. Rubino on August 9, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The struggle to understand the parent-child bond touches us deeply because we intuitively sense that our first relationships hold many clues to how we've become who we are (Karen, 1994). I chose to do a report on this book because of the keen interest I have in children, their development, well-being and emotional life.
Dr. Karen's book is a goldmine of insight, posing the age-old question ; How do we become who we are? Central to the answer is attachment theory, which, in the words of Dr. Karen, 'encompasses both the quality and strength of the parent-child bond, the ways in which it forms and develops, how it can be damaged and repaired, and the long-term impact of separations, losses, wounds, and deprivations. Beyond that, it is a theory of love and its central place in human life' ...
I feel that I came across this book serendipitously as Dr. Karen's work has further added to my knowledge base, and my understanding by confirming opinions I have developed by watching people interact with children. After reading this book you will find yourself noticing certain behaviors on display that may have previously escaped your gaze. I can't stress how much this book as helped me as a special ed. teacher, parent, and as a counseling practitioner-to-be.
I earnestly hope that I have the opportunity to share these insights with teachers, administrators, parents, and especially children as my career progresses.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Karen's book provides a detailed insight both into the development of John Bowlby's influential ideas about attachment, and into the pervasiveness of the Freudian concepts which were his starting point.Human service professionals and individuals with an interest in relationships will find this book worthwhile.
Karen locates Bowlby and colleagues such as James Robertson and Mary Ainsworth in their historical context, and provides a fascinating account of the development of ideas which are now often taken for granted. He also identifies contrary voices, such as Stella Chess, who pioneered research into children's temperament.
The major weakness of Karen's book is that inspite of his meticulous description of the development of attachment theory, he is unable to take an observer's stance in the later chapters of the book, and often appears to give Freudian theoretical constructs the status of fact. (eg oedipal desires). The later chapters lack the incisiveness and direction of the beginning half of the book. He also seems reluctant to look at research outside an attachment framework which could expand aspects of his argument, such as the body of research on resilience.
In spite of these shortcomings, this is a enthralling volume which provided me with valuable insights into the origin of concepts which have become part of my 'practice furniture'.
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