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Criticism of Bowlby's theory of adaptedness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2021

Michael Fitzgerald
Affiliation:
Former Henry Marsh Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Email: profmichaelfitzgerald@gmail.com
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Abstract

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Correspondence
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Copyright © The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2021

Abedi et al,Reference Abed, Ayton, St John-Smith, Swanepoel and Tracy1 are enthusiastic about Bowlby'sReference Bowlby2 ‘evolutionary understanding of human behaviour’. Bowlby's evolutionary psychology of the mind being a bundle of adaptations is severely criticised by the psychobiologist Henry PlotkinReference Plotkin3 who points out that ‘the weakness of evolutionary adaptedness concept is tied to the problems encountered by adaptationist accounts of the mind of every kind … (and) insistence that the adaptations are to past environments and hence, their explanation, “lies completely in the past”, which, makes them empirically inaccessible which in effect takes them out of the realm of science and imprisons it within speculative narrative’. PerringReference Perring, Perring and Wells4 is also correct that, ‘attachment theory is not a promising candidate for providing a universal basis for evolutionary designed relationships between infants and mothers’.

Declaration of interest

None.

References

Abed, R, Ayton, A, St John-Smith, P, Swanepoel, A, Tracy, DK. Evolutionary biology: an essential basic science for the training of the next generation of psychiatrists. Br J Psychiatry 2019; 215: 699701.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bowlby, J. Attachment and Loss. Basic Books, 1969.Google Scholar
Plotkin, H. Evolutionary Thought in Psychology. Blackwell, 2004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Perring, C. A relationship problem disorder? In Diagnostic Dilemmas in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (eds Perring, C and Wells, L). Oxford University Press, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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