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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Social determinants underlying the secure base: How Miller's relational-cultural theory interacts with Bowlby's attachment theory
by Kennedy, James Ryan, Psy.D., Capella University, 2016, 261; 10182245
Abstract (Summary)

This applied theoretical paper explores the underlying capacity for caregivers to raise emotionally intelligent, well-adjusted children who grow up able to respond effectively to the demands of a complex world. A guiding supposition of the research is that diminished access to institutional privilege, especially when unrecognized and unprocessed by caregivers, is likely a risk factor connected to a variety of deleterious outcomes associated with the social determinants of health as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This connection resulted from asking the question, “How does the underlying capacity for caregivers to understand and manage diverse and complex dimensions of their personal identity, especially in terms of how they relate to institutional power and privilege, serve as a protective factor in meeting the developmental needs of their children for a safe, stable, and nourishing emotional environment?” To answer this question, two well-respected theoretical orientations were identified that each spoke to half of the question, but when brought together, could much more elegantly address many more aspects of the question in an integrated and holistic fashion. Specifically, John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory provided important context as to what developmental needs children have for a safe, stable, and nourishing emotional environment. On the other hand, Jean Baker Miller’s Relational-Cultural Theory was adept at offering a nuanced perspective on understanding diverse and complex dimensions of personal identity, especially as those dimensions interfaced with institutional privilege. Bringing these two perspectives together and synthesizing them into a new approach, an approach named Attachment-Informed Relational-Cultural Therapy, was the culmination of the research. One important outcome of the research was how it framed secure attachment as an unearned privilege (i.e. attachment privilege) that is affected by and simultaneously affects multiple variables in the caregiver and child dyad. These variables can themselves then become either protective factors supporting further secure attachment or risk factors threatening to damage or destroy it. Through the process of linking childhood attachment themes to the theme of access to institutional privilege it is hoped a greater capacity may be achieved for supporting caregivers in understanding and managing diverse and complex dimensions of their personal identity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Crews, Catherine Y.
Commitee: Malpass, Diane L., Nocita, Andrew
School: Capella University
Department: Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences
School Location: United States -- Minnesota
Source: DAI-B 78/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Psychology, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Attachment theory, Institutional power and privilege, Jean Baker Miller, John Bowlby, Relational-cultural theory, Social determinants of health
Publication Number: 10182245
ISBN: 978-1-369-30654-5
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