Attachment goes to court: Child protection and custody issues El Apego Va a Juicio: Problemas de Custodia y Protección Infantil

Forslund T, Granqvist P, Van Ijzendoorn MH, Sagi-Schwartz A, Glaser D, Steele M, Hammarlund M, Schuengel C, Bakermans-Kranenburg MJ, Steele H, Shaver PR, Lux U, Simmonds J, Jacobvitz D, Groh AM, Bernard K, Cyr C, Hazen NL, Foster S, Psouni E, Cowan PA, Cowan CP, Rifkin-Graboi A, Wilkins D, Pierrehumbert B, Tarabulsy GM, Carcamo RA, Wang Z, Liang X, Kazmierczak M, Pawlicka P, Ayiro L, Chansa T, Sichimba F, Mooya H, Mclean L, Verissimo M, Gojman-De-Millan S, Moretti MM, Bacro F, Peltola MJ, Galbally M, Kondo-Ikemura K, Behrens KY, Scott S, Rodriguez AF, Spencer R, Posada G, Cassibba R, Barrantes-Vidal N, Palacios J, Barone L, Madigan S, Mason-Jones K, Reijman S, Juffer F, Fearon RP, Bernier A, Cicchetti D, Roisman G, Cassidy J, Kindler H, Zimmerman P, Feldman R, Spangler G, Zeanah CH, Dozier M, Belsky J, Lamb ME, Duschinsky R (2022)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2022


Book Volume: 32

Journal Issue: 1

DOI: 10.5093/APJ2021A26


Attachment theory and research are drawn upon in many applied settings, including family courts, but misunderstandings are widespread and sometimes result in misapplications. The aim of this consensus statement is, therefore, to enhance understanding, counter misinformation, and steer family-court utilisation of attachment theory in a supportive, evidence-based direction, especially with regard to child protection and child custody decision-making. This article is divided into two parts. In the first part, we address problems related to the use of attachment theory and research in family courts, and discuss reasons for these problems. To this end, we examine family court applications of attachment theory in the current context of the best-interest-of-the-child standard, discuss misunderstandings regarding attachment theory, and identify factors that have hindered accurate implementation. In the second part, we provide recommendations for the application of attachment theory and research. To this end, we set out three attachment principles: the child's need for familiar, non-abusive caregivers; the value of continuity of good-enough care; and the benefits of networks of attachment relationships. We also discuss the suitability of assessments of attachment quality and caregiving behaviour to inform family court decision-making. We conclude that assessments of caregiver behaviour should take center stage. Although there is dissensus among us regarding the use of assessments of attachment quality to inform child custody and child-protection decisions, such assessments are currently most suitable for targeting and directing supportive interventions. Finally, we provide directions to guide future interdisciplinary research collaboration.

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Involved external institutions

Cardiff University GB United Kingdom (GB) Université de Lausanne (UNIL) CH Switzerland (CH) Instituto Universitário PT Portugal (PT) University of Maryland US United States (USA) (US) University of Gdańsk / Uniwersytet Gdański PL Poland (PL) Deutsches Jugendinstitut e. V. DE Germany (DE) Stockholm University / Stockholms universitet SE Sweden (SE) Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) GB United Kingdom (GB) Capital Normal University (CNU) / 首都师范大学 CN China (CN) University of Calgary CA Canada (CA) Université de Nantes FR France (FR) Université Laval (UL) CA Canada (CA) University of Minnesota (UMN) US United States (USA) (US) University College London (UCL) GB United Kingdom (GB) Teikyo University JP Japan (JP) University of Delaware (UDEL) US United States (USA) (US) State University of New York at Albany (UNY Albany / UAlbany) US United States (USA) (US) University of Magallanes / Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG) CL Chile (CL) University of Cambridge GB United Kingdom (GB) Lund University / Lunds universitet SE Sweden (SE) King’s College London GB United Kingdom (GB) University of Zambia (UNZA) ZM Zambia (ZM) Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) / University Amsterdam NL Netherlands (NL) University of Texas at Austin US United States (USA) (US) Université de Montréal CA Canada (CA) Seminario de Sociopsicoanálisis A.C. (SEMSOAC) MX Mexico (MX) University of Seville / Universidad de Sevilla ES Spain (ES) Universidad de Talca CL Chile (CL) The New School US United States (USA) (US) Northumbria University GB United Kingdom (GB) University of Haifa / אוניברסיטת חיפה IL Israel (IL) University of Tampere (UTA) / Tampereen yliopisto (Tay) FI Finland (FI) Tulane University US United States (USA) (US) Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) CA Canada (CA) Bergische Universität Wuppertal DE Germany (DE) University of California, Riverside (UCR) US United States (USA) (US) University of California, Berkeley US United States (USA) (US) University of Missouri-Columbia (Mizzou) US United States (USA) (US) Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) / Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona ES Spain (ES) Reichman University / אוניברסיטת רייכמן IL Israel (IL) Università degli Studi di Pavia IT Italy (IT) Purdue-University US United States (USA) (US) Murdoch University AU Australia (AU) University of Bari Aldo Moro / Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro IT Italy (IT) Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) SG Singapore (SG) Leiden University NL Netherlands (NL) Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) / Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam NL Netherlands (NL) University of Sydney (USYD) AU Australia (AU) Simon Fraser University CA Canada (CA) University of California Davis (UCDAVIS) US United States (USA) (US) CoramBAAF / British Association for Adoption and Fostering GB United Kingdom (GB) Maseno University KE Kenya (KE)

How to cite


Forslund, T., Granqvist, P., Van Ijzendoorn, M.H., Sagi-Schwartz, A., Glaser, D., Steele, M.,... Duschinsky, R. (2022). Attachment goes to court: Child protection and custody issues El Apego Va a Juicio: Problemas de Custodia y Protección Infantil. Anuario de Psicología Jurídica, 32(1).


Forslund, Tommie, et al. "Attachment goes to court: Child protection and custody issues El Apego Va a Juicio: Problemas de Custodia y Protección Infantil." Anuario de Psicología Jurídica 32.1 (2022).

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