Attachment as a Collective Resource: Attachment Networks During Middle Childhood

Attachment theory is commonly used to investigate children’s psychosocial development. To demonstrate cultural variability and to advance the idea of attachment as a collective resource, we assessed children’s attachment networks during middle childhood among the Nseh, a Cameroonian clan with distinct concepts of family and childhood. Using photo-elicitation interviews, we used an exploratory approach to investigate the structural and functional composition of these networks and to generate a comprehensive overview. Participants were 11 children (six girls and five boys), aged 6 to 10 years. Children took photos of individuals who were important to them and with whom they felt safe, comfortable, and at ease. Then, in follow-up interviews, they were asked to characterize their attachment figures on sociostructural dimensions and to elaborate on how those individuals made them feel comfortable and safe. Transcripts of the interviews were coded using ethnographic strategies. Initial descriptive codes were analyzed concerning key terms, semantic relationships, and their context of meaning, before assigning higher level codes to generate distinct main categories of functionality. Children described attachment networks that were structurally adapted to concepts of social ties and interactional norms of the clan. Concerning their functionality, children differentiated between peers, responsible for over emotional needs, and adults, providing nutritional care. We conclude that this pattern reflects sources of security and concepts of care of the distinct developmental environment. We discuss the importance of context-specific and comprehensive approaches to attachment, moving beyond Eurocentric monotropic concepts, with the goal of developing a complex understanding of childhood across ecocultural settings.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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