(9) Impaired Mother-Child Bonding: Avoidant Attachment in Zelda Lockhart’s Fifth Born

  • Dr. Shamaila Dodhy + Dr. Ayesha Saeed
Keywords: attachment, father, grandmother, love.


Studies on attachment verified that interaction and reaction of caregiver of a child have essential role in formation of child’s attachment. The selected narrative is analysed using the framework of John Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment developed by Mary Ainsworth. The mother-child bonding falls under the category of avoidant attachment. The impact of unresponsive behaviour of the mother is structured in perceiving life as threatening which results in loneliness and social isolation of the child. Grappling with the situation and struggling not to subdue to oppression and neglect turns her irritated. However, the reminiscences of grandmother go parallel with the harrowing present, which play a mediating role helping the protagonist to carry on with an insensitive and cold mother. The literary text can be viewed as therapeutic engagement because when such problems are externalized, they promote reflection on detrimental effects of avoidant attachment of a mother towards a child.


1. Ainsworth, M. D. (1985). Patterns of infant-mother attachments: Antecedents and effects on development. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 61(9), 771.

2. Bowlby, J. (1951). Maternal care and mental health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. New York: Schocken Books.

3. Bowlby, J. (1988). A Secure Base. New York: Basic Books.

4. Dozier, M., & Bernard, K. (2004). The impact of attachment-based interventions on the quality of attachment among infants and young children. Tremblay RE, Barr RG, Peters RDeV, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, 1-5.

5. Goldner, E. M., Bilsker, D., & Jenkins, E. (2016). A concise introduction to mental health in Canada: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

6. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1990). Love and work: An attachment-theoretical perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(2), 270.

7. Lockhart, Z. (2002). Fifth Born. New York: Washington Square Press.

8. Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth strange situation. Attachment in the Preschool Years: Theory, Research, and Intervention, 1, 121-160.

9. Perry, B. D. (2003). The cost of caring: Secondary traumatic stress and the impact of working with high-risk children and families. The Child Trauma Academy. Retrieved from www. Childtrauma.org.

10. Van Rosmalen, L., Van der Horst, F. C., & Van der Veer, R. (2016). From secure dependency to attachment: Mary Ainsworth’s integration of Blatz’s security theory into Bowlby’s attachment theory. History of Psychology, 19(1), 22.