The losses that accompany childhood exposure to terror and violence can only be grasped within the context of attachment theory. One of John Bowlby’s great contributions was to recognize that attachment behavior is a fundamental part of our evolutionary heritage and therefore is critical to survival. Primates – including humans – need to attach from “cradle to grave” and any disruption in normal attachment relationships, particularly those being established in early childhood, is likely to cause developmental problems. He recognized that “grief and mourning occur in infancy whenever the responses mediating attachment behavior are activated and the mother figure continues to be unavailable” .
Bowlby went on to discuss how “the experience of loss of mother in the early years is an antecedent of relevance in the development of personalities prone to depressive and other psychiatric illnesses and that these conditions are best understood as sequelae of pathological mourning”. He identified four main variants of pathological responses by bereaved adults: 1) anxiety and depression, which he saw as the persistent and unconscious yearning to recover the lost person, originally adaptive because it produced strong motivation for reunion; 2) intense and persistent anger and reproach expressed towards others or the self and originally intended to achieve reunion with the lost relationship and discourage further separation; 3) absorption in caring for someone else who has also been bereaved, sometimes amounting to a compulsion; and 4) denial that the relationship is permanently lost .
Since Bowlby originally made these astute observations, other clinicians and researchers have been busily extending his work to show the relationship between disrupted attachment in childhood as a result of maltreatment and the development of adult pathology[4, 5]. As far back as 1963, Khan discussed the idea of cumulative trauma, and the impact of protective failures: “cumulative trauma is the result of the breaches in the mother’s role as a protective shield over the whole course of the child’s development, from infancy to adolescence” . He went on to discuss how this can leave a person vulnerable to breakdown later in life. There is a long-established connection between childhood loss and depression  and between suicidal behavior in adolescents as well as adults and disrupted attachment .
In the last decades, other workers have concretized the relationship between insecure forms of attachment in childhood and the evolution of personality disorders. Fonagy and colleagues have helped illuminate the important relationship between disrupted attachment and borderline states , while Liotti has written about the development of dissociative disorders within an attachment framework [11, 12]. Others have looked at both highly conflicted families and violent couples from the point of view of disrupted childhood attachment relationships  , while other investigators have provided abundant theoretical and evidence-based data showing how the disrupted childhood attachment relationships of parents can be carried over into the ways in which they parent their own children .
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2.Bowlby, J., Grief and mourning in infancy and early childhood. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1960. 15: p. 9-52.
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4.Karen, R., Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love. 1994, New York: Oxford University Press.
5.Zulueta, d.F., From Pain to Violence, the roots of human destructiveness. 1993, London: Whurr.
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10.Fonagy, P., et al., Attachment, the reflective self, and borderline states: The predictive specificity of the Adult Attachment Interview and pathological emotional development., in Attachment theory: Social, developmental, and clinical perspectives, S. Goldberg, R. Muir, and J. Kerr, Editors. 1995, The Analytic Press: Hillsdale, NJ. p. 233-278.
11.Liotti, G., Disorganized/disoriented attachment in the psychotherapy of the dissociative disorders, in Attachment theory: Social, developmental, and clinical perspectives., S. Goldberg, R. Muir, and J. Kerr, Editors. 1995, The Analytic Press: Hillsdale, NJ. p. 343-365.
12.Liotti, G., Disorganization of attachment as a model for understanding dissociative pathology, in Attachment Disorganization, J. Solomon and C. George, Editors. 1999, The Guilford Press: New York.
13.Henry, K. and J.G. Homes, Childhood revisited: The intimate relationships of individuals from divorced and conflict-ridden families., in ttachment theory and close relationships, J.A. Simpson and W.S. Rholes, Editors. 1998, Guilford Press: New York. p. 280-316.
14.Roberts, N. and P. Noller, The associations between adult attachment and couple violence: The roles of communication patterns and relationships satisfaction., in Attachment theory and close relationships, J.A. Simpson and W.S. Rholes, Editors. 1998, The Guildford Press: New York. p. 317-351.
15.Main, M. and E. Hess, Parents' unresolved traumatic experiences are related to infant disorganized attachment status: is frightened and/or frightening parental behavior the linking mechanism?. in Attachment In The Preschool Years: Theory, Research, And Intervention, M.T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti, and E. Cummings, Editors. 1990, University of Chicago Press: Chicago. p. 161-182.