Attachment is central to understanding why parents, children and families do what they do. The Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM) as developed by Dr Patricia Crittenden is a developmental, strengths based model that emphasises the dynamic nature of attachment strategies across the lifespan. Dr Crittenden studied under Dr Mary Ainsworth and Dr John Bowlby, the founders and pioneers of attachment theory. In turn Dr Crittenden has trained Katrina Robson and Alison Tooby in the DMM and has a special link with the community of Barrow-in-Furness, having taught here several times. The validation of the School Age Assessment of Attachment (SAA) involved 50 local families from Barrow who worked with Katrina and Alison between 2007 and 2013 to address validity of the SAA in terms of attachment, mental health services and measures of stress, depression and anxiety. (Crittenden, Robson & Tooby 2015). Katrina and Alison set up Love Barrow families in 2013 aiming to work with some of our most vulnerable families, transforming the delivery of public services and using the DMM to properly understand the function of behaviours for children and parents. A recent analysis of the families we have worked with highlights the impact of unresolved trauma and loss in families who face difficulties and who often appear in mental health, child protection services and/or the criminal justice system.
Understanding why people do what they do is fundamental to providing help that addresses the presenting difficulties. Understanding why children behave in the way that they do as early as possible can help to address emerging mental health issues before they become ingrained. Schools are well placed to know which families and children we should be concerned about and the DMM is the only truly developmental model of attachment currently available. Based upon maturation and children’s expanding contexts, moving from home to school the DMM provides an age- related array of strategies of self-protection that children use. The strengths based approach of the DMM respects that children need survival strategies and that understanding the function of the strategy means any intervention is based on evidence rather than assumptions or judgements.
The DMM does not offer quick fixes, the emphasis is upon properly understanding the function of behaviour so that the underlying issues can be targeted in the most efficient and effective way possible.
So what can we offer?