Bowlby’s Attachment Theory

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory

Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment proposes that children are naturally pre-programmed to create relationships with others to survive (Wu, 2019). Monotropy refers to a child’s intrinsic urge to bond to one major attachment figure, implying that one relationship is more essential than all others. According to Wu (2019), there is a key phase for attachment development (2.5 years).

If an attachment does not form during this time frame, it is possible that it will not form at all. Bowlby later advocated a 5-year sensitivity period. According to Bowlby’s maternal deprivation theory, ongoing disturbance of the relationship between newborn and primary caregiver can lead to long-term cognitive, social, and emotional problems in the child (Barbaro, 2020).

The mother-child connection and the nurse-patient interaction have certain commonalities. Because the baby requires the mother’s assistance and protection to survive risky situations, attachment behavior (proximity seeking) develops when the child is in a stressful or unpleasant scenario (Hooper et al., 2022). Similarly, patients have a natural need to associate with a caring figure (the physician or nurse) to sustain their health during a period of pain and suffering. As a result, nurse-patient bonding is subconsciously linked to the early attachment connection.

Secure attachment is the first behavior that nurses should try to stimulate when working with parents to promote healthy attachment. According to Fitzgerald (2021), patients who have a secure attachment style have the most advantageous and productive interactions with their practitioners. These patients believe they deserve care and have faith that others will provide them with satisfactory and relevant health care.

They can also seek and accept medical assistance. These people’s mental representations include the perception that help will be satisfactory and that health workers can be relied on for assistance during a crisis. Patients who define themselves as securely attached report higher patient-physician relationship quality (Fitzgerald, 2021). This attachment style enables healthcare professionals to develop positive, constructive clinical relationships with their patients.

The second behavior a nurse attempt to stimulate when working with the parent to promote health attachment is communication. Patients tend to engage more and have more autonomy when clinicians fully grasp their clients’ attachment types and give appropriate empathy, compassion, and support (Green et al., 2021). This increases treatment adherence.

Patients’ behaviors and communication techniques are often compatible with certain attachment types. Clear, good patient-physician communication is connected with improved health as evaluated by physiological, behavioral, or subjective measurements (Green et al., 2021). To create beneficial interactions and communication patterns, physicians must understand their patients’ attachment types.  Communication is a critical element of the health result of the patient.

Attachment style is acknowledged as a factor that influences individual performance and may be associated with enhanced nurse-patient relationships and patient outcomes. Nurses’ attachment styles and reactions to patients’ attachment styles may influence the nurse-patient connection; nurses’ attachment styles can also influence the type of relationship they create with others.

According to Ainoutdinova and Ainoutdinova (2019), the quality of early attachment ties with the main caregiver and empathy is cultivated in the early rearing environment. Empathy has been described in various ways, but it generally refers to an individual’s emotions toward the experiences of another. Empathy aids in client relations, the support of community activities, and group cohesiveness.

Empathy is a necessary component for impactful interpersonal behavior and plays a vital role in the nurse-patient partnership because it fosters comprehension of the patient’s emotional status and perception and enables the nurse to successfully share and partake in the patient’s experience (Ainoutdinova & Ainoutdinova, 2019). The capacity to perceive and comprehend others’ emotions, as well as successfully express one’s understanding of others’ emotions to them, is especially important in clinical meetings between nurse and patient.


Ainoutdinova, K. A., & Ainoutdinova, I. N. (2019). Deviant behaviors among young people as a result of inadequate parental attachment.

Barbaro, N. (2020). The nature of attachment systems. Social and Personality Psychology Compass14(12), 1–12.

Fitzgerald, M. (2021). Criticism of Bowlby’s theory of adaptedness. The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science218(2), 119.

Green, J., Staff, L., Bromley, P., Jones, L., & Petty, J. (2021). The implications of face masks for babies and families during the COVID-19 pandemic: A discussion paper. Journal of Neonatal Nursing: JNN27(1), 21–25.

Hooper, L. M., Tomek, S., & Newman, C. R. (2022). Using attachment theory in medical settings: implications for primary care physicians. Journal of Mental Health (Abingdon, England)21(1), 23–37.

Wu, C.-H. (2019). Introduction to attachment theory: Behavioural system and individual differences. In Employee Proactivity in Organizations (pp. 23–42). Bristol University Press.

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory Assignment Instructions

Based on the theory of attachment, what behaviors would a nurse attempt to stimulate when working with parent to promote health attachment?