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Attachment and autism spectrum conditions: Exploring Mary Main’s coding notes

Coughlan, Barry, Marshall-Andon, Tess, Anderson, Julie, Reijman, Sophie, Duschinsky, Robbie (2019) Attachment and autism spectrum conditions: Exploring Mary Main’s coding notes. Developmental Child Welfare, . pp. 76-93. ISSN 2516-1032. (doi:10.1177/2516103218816707) (KAR id:72722)


Distinguishing autism spectrum behaviors from behaviors relating to disorganized attachment can be challenging. There is, for instance, a notable overlap between both conditions in terms of behaviors deemed stereotypical. In addition, there are also similarities regarding some atypical social overtures. Responding to this overlap has been the subject for much debate in the literature. Disorganized attachment was first introduced and conceptualized by the attachment researcher, Mary Main. Main is considered the leading authority on coding this phenomenon. During the course of archival research, we obtained Main’s notes on coding attachment in a group of 15 children with autism spectrum conditions (hereafter ASC). Drawing on these texts, this article explores Main’s reasoning when making distinctions between ASC and attachment at the behavioral level. Our approach is informed by Chang’s argument for the potential of “history as complementary science.” Analysis indicates that, for Main, frequency and timing were important differential factors when attributing a behavior to either ASC or the child’s attachment pattern.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/2516103218816707
Uncontrolled keywords: Ainsworth Strange Situation Procedure, attachment, autism, developmental psychology, differential diagnosis
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Julie Anderson
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2019 13:09 UTC
Last Modified: 28 Jul 2022 22:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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