Richard G. Petty, MD

Attachment and Well-Being In the Elderly

Attachment theory is a psychological concept that was developed by John Bowlby in Britain and Harry Harlow
in the United States in the late 1950s. The idea is that humans and
many other animals have evolved an adaptive tendency to maintain
proximity to an attachment figure.

Attachment is defined as an emotional bond that one person forms
between himself or herself and another specific person. Originally the
theory was developed to explain the relationship of a parent and child,
but over tie it has become realized that attachments can occur
throughout life, and if they become abnormal, they can lead to
loneliness, isolation and psychopathology. There has recently been a resurgence of interest in attachment styles, and how they interact with emotional and behavioral expression during the development of dementia.

There was some interesting research presented today at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association
in San Diego, California. Investigators from Charlottesville, Virginia
looked at 39 older patients (27 were women): 49% were aged between 65
and 74 and the remainder was over 74.

  • 41% of women and 33% of the men said that their activities were limited by physical and/or emotional problems
  • 41% of the women and 17% of the men endorsed at least two out of three indicators of depression
  • When they examined their attachment styles, 28% were secure, 59% avoidant and 13% enmeshed
  • An avoidant attachment pattern is more common among the elderly than it is among younger people
  • Understanding attachment style could be very helpful in
    understanding how people react to their healthcare providers and their
    preferred coping styles

For anyone working or living with elderly people, attachment theory
is well worth investigating. There is already some preliminary evidence
that specific interventions may help older people with avoidant

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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