Comparison Of Object Relations And Attachment Theory

There are theories in clinical and developmental psychology that attribute the behaviour of adults to the primary care they received as children. A normal occurrence in this dimension of living may be culled from behavioural differences amongst people. They need to answer why these behaviours appear different has long given the psychological sector facts to deduce.

Among the variety of theories that have been assumed in the quest for these answers, psychologists have attributed the pre-existing differences to two theories — attachment theory and object relations theory. The two explicitly analyze the relations that children build with caregivers as the primary cause of the behavioural difference thereof.

Attachment theory, theoretically and practically, emphasizes the study of attachment concerning personal development, while object relations theory underlines the importance of the relationship children build with their primary caregiver in line with its self-developmental effects.

Moreover, the two have formed an interconnected relationship in which the development of one affects the other, and vice versa. Let’s examine how these theories work in the subsequent paragraphs.


This explains the necessity of attachment in an individual for progress to take place. It helps in building a sense of security and stability among children, expanding their growth capacity.

John Bowlby, the psychologist responsible for this theory in developmental psychology examines the attachment theory from the view of a child. When a child grows attached to a parent, its growth is nurtured and improved. It enables the child to formulate a sense of security and accountability towards the attached parent and the entirety of life.

However, a child raised in the absence of such attachment becomes fearful. The child, in this case, has lost out on a major developmental feature forcing it to seek attachment in the later years. Bowlby notes that a strong attachment facilitates development.

The sense of security that this theory provides was equally proven by Mary Ainsworth. This is what she termed “attachment behaviour.” Her ordeals centre on proving Bowlby’s theory.

Under stressful conditions, children were separated from their caregivers. Consequently, the ones who had a strong attachment were unfazed by the absence of their parents, whereas, in the other group, the children with a weak attachment clamoured all through for their caregiver to re-establish a feeble fondness.

Furthermore, Cindy Hazan and Philip Shaver broadened this theory into the scope of adult relationships. They noted that the couples attached were able to balance their intimacy and independence to become co-dependent on each other. But couples with a weak attachment lacked this. They found the concept of maintaining an active relationship difficult to accomplish.


This theory deals with the development of a child’s personality based on the images and attitudes it sculpts about its caregiver within. This disposition is drawn out from the relationship a child establishes with its primary caregiver, e.g., a mother to child relationship.

In turn, the personality of the child is affected, likewise future relationships with other individuals. Since this child has a positive reflection, spurred from the stringent relationship with the mother, or whomever, it is likely to formulate a similar personality for itself. This debates identity and self-discovery. It is apparent that this theory enrages such.

Object relations theory proposes that a child with poor object relations is often judgmental and cannot seem to grasp having future relationships without a critical analysis of characters.

While both attachment theory and object relations theory appear different, they are seemingly connected. A strong dose of both aids self-development and a little dose of both impedes development.

According to both, a child can only realize its identity if indeed a strong attachment lingers between it and the caregiver. When the child is given this luxury, it can now decipher the image of the caregiver to formulate its own. When a strong attachment is absent, the preceding fact cannot be realized. The child is left to wander in a river of poor relationships fostered by its inclination of a lack of attachment and object relations.

Besides, the attachment theory faces the critique of it being a western theory. It is not a universal concept. Studies have shown that in non-western states such as states in Africa and Latin America, attachment is far from the last thing parents use to cultivate their children yet, such societies have relatively upright citizens.

The object relations theory can be described as one of discovery, self-identification, and inclination, while the attachment theory can be described as the theory that ignites this discovery.

In conclusion, it is imperative to understand these theories are a portion of the necessary developmental aspect of growth. Without them, the differences that exist within adult behaviours will never be understood as a whole.


Psychologist World (2020). Attachment Theory. Psychologist World. Retrieved from

Mills, J. (2018). Object relations theory. Entry for The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology, 4th Edition. Retrieved from

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