Attachment and learning disability: a theoretical review informing three clinical interventions Academic Article uri icon


  • Attachment theory makes sense of two phenomena observed in some people with learning disabilities: it provides a reason for their limited exploration of the world, and it explains discontinuities in the pattern and intensity of their expressions of anger. Applying this framework to three enmeshed relationships occurring between an adult with learning disabilities and a member of care staff achieved at least partial resolution of their problems. Attachment theory's critics have set a number of challenges for its proponents, including emphasizing an interactional rather than a unidirectional approach to relationships; prioritizing social context; and understanding the attachment dynamic dimensionally rather than as a set of categories. The latter issue is pertinent for residential services: facilitating secure attachment relationships for distressed clients may be difficult for professionals, but partial assuagement of their attachment needs is a realistic clinical goal.

publication date

  • August 1995