cover image Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment

Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment

Bethany Saltman. . Ballantine, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-18144-3

Saltman, a journalist and researcher, debuts with a fascinating deep dive into attachment theory. Her interest in the subject began as she struggled with mixed emotions toward motherhood, worrying that—in part because of her own upbringing by a cold and distant mother—she hadn’t formed the “secure attachment” to her young daughter described in parenting literature. Saltman’s quest to understand the theory leads her to its formative figure, psychologist Mary Ainsworth. In the early 1950s, Ainsworth began extending and developing the theories of John Bowlby, then an outlier in psychology who, in placing the mother-baby bond at the core of infant development, went against the prevailing “cupboard theory” of behaviorism, which held that infants simply attached to the person who fed them. Saltman, bolstered by her research, provides clear explanations of attachment theory, in particular Ainsworth’s cornerstone testing tool, the Strange Situation, where infants’ attachment styles are determined as they interact with their mothers in different situations, such as breast-feeding and co-sleeping. Readers will learn along with the author what creates a solid attachment between caregiver and child, how attachment styles manifest in adulthood, and what constitutes “the telltale heart of attachment.” Carefully researched and with copious endnotes, this is an excellent resource for anyone interested in child development. Meg Thompson, Thompson Literary. (Apr.)