Adult Attachment Interview

The Adult Attachment Interview (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1985) consists of a series of questions that ask the speaker to consider their childhood experience and how this might affect their thought and behavior in the present and, especially, as parents.

An Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) yields 4 types of information:

  • A self-protective attachment strategy, i.e., the way the speaker uses information to organize their behavior when they feel endangered or believe their children to be endangered;
  • A possible set of unresolved traumatic experiences that distort the person's behavior without their being aware of it; traumas interrupt the strategy.
  • An over-riding distortion of the strategy such as depression;
  • An interpreted developmental history of the speaker. This history combines information provided directly by the speaker with information derived from the pattern of errors (i.e. dysfluence) in the transcribed discourse.

Who can this help?

The Adult Attachment Interview can be requested by local authorities, children's guardians and solicitors to assist in the following kinds of situations:

  • Where there is a need to assess the risk presented by particular parents to their children, and the strengths they bring to their family
  • Where parental difficulties seem entrenched or complex, or where professionals cannot understand why an adult is experiencing difficulties, or why parenting problems have occurred
  • Where parental behaviour may have been poorly understood or where there is a breakdown in the relationship between parents and professional networks
  • Where it is felt that a parent's past experiences may be impacting upon their current parenting, relationships with their partner or spouse, or the outside world
  • Where there is a need to assess ability to change
  • In assessments of parents with learning difficulties, to help understand where difficulties may be more emotional and social in nature, and where cognitive difficulties may impact upon parenting and functioning in relationships
  • In any situation where it is desirable to understand more of how an adult thinks, feels, and manages their relationships.

Where an AAI is requested and administered, interpretation of the interview is from a standardised coding procedure, which involves extensive training and testing of reliability to an internationally accepted standard. A transcript of a digitally recorded interview is prepared which is then classified 'blind' by an external coder, to ensure that this does not 'colour' the reading of the transcript. The classification provided by the external coder may not be made available to the court, as it is technical and only meaningful to those who have been trained in classifying and coding the Adult Attachment Interview. However, important conclusions can be evidenced in court reports, as well as explained in detail, and thus are open to challenge.