Attachment and Separation

As life begins, there is a bond between a mother and child. After being in the womb for so long, it is often hard to detach a child from its mother. Not only does this happen for infants, this goes on throughout life with other relationships. For example, a husband and wife often have a bond with each other. They become a support system and an attachment is formed between them.

While looking into the relationships that are formed throughout life, attachment is often found. When humans become close with one another, they develop a need to be around those that they have become close with. This is seen as an attachment.

As an attachment gets stronger, the fear of losing someone can be unbearable. The problem with this is that it is natural for relationships and attachments to be broken. Often when this happens, separation distress begins. This is attention focused on the lost other and extreme discomfort at that person’s inaccessibility. (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012)

If we think about a husband and wife, most of the time they are going to be with each other while they are sleeping. While spending time apart, many couples will report not being able to sleep without the other around. Often times, partners will feel more emotionally distressed as well. (Eastwick,P. 2008) This could revert back to the fact that mothers are often around their children. As an infant is tired and cranky, a mother will hold them and rock them to sleep. This attachment being formed also makes it more comforting to be comforted by those that you are attached to.

In reality, mothers and their children will have a bond. Most mothers also have an attachment with their children and are comforted when they are soothing their children. With that being said, attachment is not a bad quality. It shows that we care about those around us. What could make attachment not leading to separation distress is by being practical. As we get older, we need to realize that we can not always be around those that we love all of the time. By understanding this, we also need to allow ourselves and others alone time. It is normal to spend time apart from loved ones and this time apart could bring you closer together.



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

Eastwick,P. (2008) Separation Distress Among Romantic Partners and its Lessons for Human Mating. Retrieved from

1 comment

  1. I relate to the topic of separation distress that you have covered in this blog. The first individual that comes to mind is my grandmother who passed away in 2002. She was a significant influence on me and my siblings due to her proximity (my grandparents lived down the street) and because both of my parents worked full-time. I can remember the morning that I successfully tied a shoe thanks to her instruction, and the many afternoon walks we took together. Unfortunately she suffered a stroke after a heart valve replacement, losing all mobility and ability to speak. The separation distress began when she was in that state and escalated after her departure from this earth. The grieving process took me many years to navigate and I understand the intensity of missing the presence of an influential loved one.
    Where love was lost, I have also gained great love. My husband and I have lived together for almost 10 years. As his career has advanced, he has been required to go on company training trips that have lasted up to a week at a time. I was always mentally and emotionally prepared for his chunks of absence, but I still found that I could not sleep and would wake up several times throughout the night! Thankfully I have not had to experience the emotional distress caused by marital separation or divorce. Weiss (2010) notes that these individuals experience yearning for the presence of their spouse, while still harboring feelings of anger or sadness. Thank you for covering this topic, as I was able to relate so deeply to these concepts which provided me with a greater overall understanding.

    Weiss, R.S. (2010). The Emotional Impact of Marital Separation. Journal of Social Issues, 32(1), p. 135-145, doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1976.tb02484.x

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