Re-framing Attachment Theory with Respect to Gender and Sexuality
Discussions in the psychological literature on attachment and its consequences for adult relationships tie the development of gender identity, sexuality and successful adult pair bonding in adulthood to secure attachment in infancy. Secondarily they cite the physiology of hormones and brain chemistry as supporting these continuities. While the culture-bound designations of avoidant, ambivalent, insecure attachment have been critiqued by anthropologists and cross-cultural psychologists, less attention has been focused on the many culturally variable and viable formulations of gender, sexuality, kinship, marriage and parenting documented in the ethnographic record and the challenges they present to the secure attachment-pair-bonding scenario. I will re-cast this scenario in a broader framework that takes account of cultural variation in attachment patterns and their possible outcomes in adult relationships. Using ethnographic examples of cultural dislocation and recovery I will show how culturally shaped attachment orientations may produce adult relationality that functions effectively through extended kin relations and community rather than exclusive pair-bonding/nuclear family configurations as the measure of success.