Little Hans and attachment theory: Bowlby's hypothesis reconsidered in light of new evidence from the freud archives

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Abstract

Bowlby (1973), applying attachment theory to Freud's case of Little Hans, hypothesized that Hans's anxiety was a manifestation of anxious attachment. However, Bowlby's evidence was modest; Hans was threatened by his mother with abandonment, expressed fear of abandonment prior to symptom onset, and was separated from his mother for a short time a year before. Bowlby's hypothesis is reassessed in light of a systematic review of the case record as well as new evidence from recently derestricted interviews with Hans's father and Hans in the Freud Archives. Bowlby's hypothesis is supported by multiple additional lines of evidence regarding both triggers of separation anxiety preceding the phobia (e.g., a funeral, sibling rivalry, moving, getting his own bedroom) and background factors influencing his working model of attachment (mother's psychopathology, intense marital conflict, multiple suicides in mother's family) that would make him more vulnerable to such anxiety. Bowlby's hypothesis is also placed within the context of subsequent developments in attachment theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-91
Number of pages31
JournalPsychoanalytic Study of the Child
Volume62
DOIs
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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