Using Parental Attachment in Family Court Proceedings: DMM Theory about the Adult Attachment Interview

Patricia Crittenden, Andrea Landini, Susan Spieker, Ben Grey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parental attachment refers to the protective and comforting role of parents toward their children. This role has been violated in cases of maltreatment. Understanding the attachment of parents who endanger their children can illuminate the psychological processes behind the harmful behaviour of parents. This paper proposes assessing parental attachment with the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI, George, Kaplan and Main, 1984, 1996), classified according to the Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation (DMM, Crittenden & Landini, 2011). We discuss meta-analyses of the ‘gold standard’ Berkeley method (Main & Goldwyn, 1984; 1989; Main et al., 2003) for extracting AAI information. AAIs of maltreating adults classified with the Berkeley method have an improbably high rate of secure attachment, making it inadequate for family forensic applications. In contrast, the DMM uses a theory-based, developmental expansion of Ainsworth’s infant categories to describe a wide array of dimensionally-related protective strategies for coping with danger across the lifespan. DMM-AAIs, classified by trained, reliable professionals and integrated with data from other sources to create an individualised family formulation, meet evidentiary requirements. We call for a programme of research of court-involved families comparing DMM-AAI formulations to outcomes of usual methods for determining family services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Abuse Review
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2021


  • Child Protection
  • Adult Attachment Interview
  • DMM
  • forensic
  • clinical


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