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The biological bases of attachment

Oliveira, P; Fearon, P; (2019) The biological bases of attachment. Adoption and Fostering , 43 (3) pp. 274-293. 10.1177/0308575919867770. Green open access

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Abstract

From its origins, human attachment has always been viewed as a primary, biologically-based phenomenon with strong evolutionary roots. The last few decades have seen a large increase in research studies from developmental science and neighbouring disciplines that attest the role of biology in attachment processes. This review aims to provide a concise and up-to-date summary of research on the biological bases of attachment throughout the lifespan. We review the role of genetics, physiology ‒ focusing on oxytocin and cortisol ‒ and brain mechanisms that underlie attachment behaviour and its consequences. Findings are complex in that they often do not apply equally to all patterns of attachment, to all ages, or all temperament styles, among other factors. In addition, some important evidence is indirect, coming from studies that investigate the impact of variations in caregiving quality, such as differences in maltreatment and separation from caregiving figures, and on biology, and vice versa, rather than looking at differences in attachment per se, which complicates their interpretation. Implications for practice are raised throughout.

Type: Article
Title: The biological bases of attachment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0308575919867770
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/0308575919867770
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Attachment, genetics, brain development, oxytocin, cortisol, maltreatment, foster care, institutional care
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085575
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