overview family relations institute

Overview: Courses, assessments, training, research & coding

Family Relations Institute

The Family Relations Institute applies the Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) to service delivery, including assessment, psychotherapy, early intervention, social work, the health services, and the courts.

The conceptual approach is a dynamic-maturational perspective on change and continuity in developmental pathways, particularly those that are associated with risk for dysfunction or psychopathology.

Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth
(Dr. Pat Crittenden photo)

The DMM began under Mary Ainsworth's guidance, with input from John Bowlby and E. Mavis Hetherington. That is, the roots of the DMM are in psychoanalytic theory, general systems theory, family systems theory, cognitive psychology - and clinical practice.

Under Ainsworth's leadership, attachment gained both empirical data and conceptual breadth. At Johns Hopkins University, Ainsworth carried out her seminal study on quality of attachment (that yielded the ABC patterns). At the University of Virginia (where Patricia Crittenden earned her doctorate under Ainsworth's mentorship), attachment became embedded in Bronfenbrenner's social ecology theory. From the beginning, Ainsworth encouraged careful observation and expansion of assessment methods and theory.

The CARE-Index, with its compulsive patterns and two forms of insensitivity (controlling and unresponsive), was Crittenden's masters' thesis (1980). The A/C pattern was her dissertation (1983). Attachment theory was broadening to encompass family functioning and community contexts. Crittenden's first family attachment study was undertaken at UVA with the support of Hetherington.

John Bowlby

John Bowlby

Mavis Hetherington

Mavis Hetherington

By the time Crittenden left UVA, she considered attachment as one part of a hierarchy of systems theory from intrapersonal to interpersonal to cultural. While Crittenden was at the University of Miami, she and Ainsworth modified the Strange Situation to create the PAA to better fit 'at risk' preschoolers' behavior. Attachment was expanding beyond infancy and taking on the complexity of adult human behavior.

In 1992, Crittenden established the Family Relations Institute (FRI). FRI has brought the DMM to Europe, Australia, and Latin America, making it a more clinical and culturally sensitive theory. The process of developing assessment of attachment has continued with the assistance of many colleagues from many countries and cultures, creating the current life-span array of assessments.

The primary activities of FRI are:

1. Courses in attachment theory
2. Creation and testing of developmentally and culturally sensitive DMM assessments of attachment
3. Training in the application of DMM assessments (in several languages and in a variety of cultures)
4. Research
5. Coding for others' research

The Family Relations Institute trains and authorizes DMM assessments trainers, and certifies coders' competence for research and treatment applications.

The five figures below provide a model of the increasing array of possible strategies that individuals may use at varied periods of development. (Click each model for a larger version.)

infancy attachment

Attachment in infancy

preschool attachment

Attachment in preschool

school age attachment

Attachment in school years

adolescence attachment

Attachment in adolescence

adult attachment

Adult attachment

Overview of the DMM

The Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) emphasizes the dynamic interaction of the maturation of the human organism, across the life-span, with the contexts in which maturational possibilities are used to protect the self, reproduce, and protect one's progeny.

The outcome is the organization of mental and behavioral strategies for protection of the self and progeny, i.e., patterns of attachment.

The DMM hypothesizes that, as maturation makes new and more complex mental and behavioral processes possible, changes in context provide the occasion for using these processes. Specifically, there is a need for maturing individuals to attribute meaning to complex, ambiguous, incomplete, and deceptive information in ways that promote self-protective behavior; the interaction of maturation with experience provides a basis for this. The particular organization of self-protective behavior that develops reflects the strategies that most effectively identify, prevent, and protect the self from the dangers of particular contexts while concurrently promoting exploration of other aspects of life. Because exposure to danger differs by age as well as by person, family, and cultural group, individuals' patterns of attachment will reflect:

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