Radio 4’s All in the Mind: Attachment and Psychopathology

All in the Mind: I love it!

On the 20/11/2012 the outstanding All in the Mind (Radio 4) series presented by Claudia Hammond featured two interesting pieces relevant to AS and/or A2 Psychology.

AS Psychology: Early Social Development

In this episode Claudia Hammond talks to Professor Stephen Scott about new research (to be published in the Journal of Development and Psychopathology) that suggests that even older children in foster care who have insecure attachments can “learn to trust again” and go on to develop secure attachments with foster carers. Foster caring that is sensitive (rather than simply loving) and attachment-focussed can, according to research, produce changes in the quality of attachments young people have and enable them to develop trusting bonds despite their insecure early childhood experiences (over 50% of a sample of 50 young people showed a “secure” attachment, according to the studies assessment criteria, with their foster carer; only 10% of the sample had secure attachments with a birth parent).

The key message from the research seems to be that “attachment is not just for babies” and that training for foster carers of older children and adolescents should be attachment-focussed regardless of the age of the child/adolescent who has been placed.

I think it is worth discussing this in relation to the AS specification (AQA A) when studying Attachment Theory. Students could use this to challenge Bowlby’s emphasis on attachment formation in the first few years of life and the predictions about later relationships based on the continuity hypothesis. Students might like to link this to research, featured in most AS textbooks, that suggests that positive relationships in later life might help to overcome early attachment problems.

AS or A2 Psychology: Psychopathology

This episode also featured an interesting interview with author and Historian Sarah Wise who has written a book about the inhabitants of Victorian asylums (“Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England“; published by Bodley Head, 4 Oct 2012). Contrary to popular belief not only were “hysterical” women and the poor inappropriately “locked up”, but the rich middle and upper classes were also vulnerable. The eccentric wealthy, according to the authors research, were sometimes victim to plots to have them removed from society in a private asylum in order for those plotting to access their money. The idea that these “inconvenient people”, as the author refers to them in her book title, represented a high proportion of those in asylums highlights the importance of clear diagnostic criteria and the changes in the law that occurred to protect people from all walks of life. This might make a useful addition to any class discussion about the historical nature of Psychiatric institutions and changes in perceptions and the management of mental health. This book might make an interesting read for any budding Psychologists or just anyone that is interested in the history of mental health (possible Extended Project potential…?!).


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