Routinely used interventions for improving attachment in infants and young children: a systematic review and comprehensive UK survey

Attachment refers to an infant’s innate tendency to maintain proximity to and seek comfort from a caregiver to provide safety and security (Bowlby, 1969). It is key in promoting the bond between infant and caregiver and in a child’s social and emotional development. Research has identified different attachment ‘patterns’ that a child may display with their caregiver; ‘secure’, ‘insecure resistant’, ‘insecure avoidant’ and ‘disorganised’. Infants with a disorganised classification of attachment may show contradictory, confused behaviours when under threat. This pattern is clinically important and attachment problems in childhood have been linked to poor long term social, mental health and educational outcomes (Futh et al, 2008).

Parenting interventions have been developed aiming to promote secure attachment and reduce disorganised attachment in infants. Recent systematic reviews have shown that many of these are clinically effective (Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2003; Wright et al, 2015; 2017). However, numerous treatments are routinely used in health and social care for vulnerable children, but many of these do not have a robust evidence base to support them (Wright et al, 2015), meaning we cannot be sure if these treatments are helpful or harmful.

The COMIC team will work with UCL to carry out a comprehensive survey of current practice in the UK. They will then conduct a systematic review of the current evidence around these routinely used interventions. To find out more about the research, please contact Megan Garside ([email protected]), Barry Wright ([email protected]) or Jane Blackwell ([email protected]).


Professor Barry Wright (systematic review lead), Professor Pasco Fearon (survey lead), Professor Peter Fonagy (survey lead), Dr Danya Glaser, Dr Matthew Woolgar, Professor Paul Ramchandani, Professor Rachel Churchill, Professor Dean McMillan, Dr Victoria Allgar, Ms Danielle Varley, Ms Megan Garside, Mrs Alison O’Sullivan, Ms Michelle McHale, Mr Michael Brown