The DMM and ABC+D and the two primary models of attachment used by developmental psychologists and researchers. They differ in many ways, some small and some significant. The spreadsheet below offers a technical comparison of the attachment patterns and sub-patterns of the two models from the DMM perspective. The comparisons are based on the materials cited below. See CSI’s bibliography of DMM and ABC+D comparison papers for more authorities.
Both models describe what John Bowlby called the attachment system, and both expand on Mary Ainsworth’s original ABC model of attachment. The DMM relies on the original ABC label scheme, adds additional classifications , and adds its own descriptive terms. The ABC+D model uses the original ABC label scheme for children, and uses a different label scheme for adults, and adds it own descriptive terms. The ABC+D model is also known as the Berkeley model and the Main and Goldwyn (M&G) model.
The DMM is a coherent and tight model which describes attachment in terms of classification of self-protective strategies. It does not include disorganized attachment. It can be used for research, forensic work, and for clinical work classifying and/or understanding individual behaviors and information processing.
The ABC+D model is a widely distributed model and researchers and authors utilize a range of terms, and generally describe attachment in terms of categories. It does include disorganized attachment. It’s use is limited to research of general populations, and cannot be used clinically, forensically, nor to assess individuals (see Granqvist and Minghetti below).
Ainsowrth’s original model included the following categories: A1, A2, B1, B2, B3, B4, C1, C2.
Both models use the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) as a primary method of determining adult attachment classifications/categories. The ABC+D categories below are particularly oriented to AAI attachment measures. The DMM classifications orient to AAI and to the DMM lifespan array of attachment assessments.
“?” indicates CSI is wondering if there may be a correlation, but we don’t know any authority to justify a correlation. This worksheet is a work in progress, please contribute to it’s development.
DMM-ABC+D classification-category comparison worksheet
|DMM CLASSIFICATIONS||ABC+D CATEGORIES|
|29 primary classifications of self-protective strategy patterns available to adults (Lower levels of classifications increasingly available to children as they mature. Higher numbered classifications require higher intellectual ability.)||25? adult attachment categories (children’s categories are labeled with a different set of terms)|
|B-CLASSIFICATIONS (DMM)||B -CATEGORIES (ABC+D)|
|B COMMON TERMS||B COMMON TERMS|
|Secure, proximity-seeking, contact-maintaining after separation, B1-4 (Ainsworth, children) |
Free (ABC+D adult)
|B SPECIFIC CLASSIFICATIONS – B-Balanced||B SPECIFIC CATEGORIES F-Free|
(Note, ABC+D uses same B-labels as DMM for children. Thus, for both models, B1-5 describe a child label.)
|B1 Distanced from past||F1 some setting aside of attachment|
|B2 Accepting||F2 somewhat dismissing/restricting secure|
|B3 Comfortably balanced||F3 Prototypically secure/autonomous|
|B4 Sentimental||F4 Strong valuing of relationship/preoccupation|
|B5 Complaining acceptance||F5 Somewhat resentful/conflicted while accepting involvement|
|Earned B (can be any B pattern)||Earned security|
|BO Balanced other|
|F1a Harsh secure, re-evaluation and redirection|
|F1b Harsh secure, limited involvement|
|F3a Continuous secure, earned secure|
|F3b Continuous secure, earned secure (probably not the same as DMM earned B)|
|F4b Mild preoccupation, traumatic background|
|A-CLASSIFICATIONS (DMM)||A-CATEGORIES (ABC+D)|
|(Young children can utilize DMM strategies up to A3/4, older children and adults can utilize lower and higher numbered strategies)||(Adult categories. Children can be categorized A, A1, A2|
|A COMMON TERMS||A COMMON TERMS|
|Cognitively organized self-protective strategies|
Predictable Time and order
Minimize, dismiss, deny affective information/feelings
Compulsive rule following
Compulsive compliance (A3 and higher)
|Avoidant, lower proximity seeking, proximity-avoiding, distress communication downplayed (Ainsworth, children)|
Dismissing (ABC+D adult), dismissive
|A SPECIFIC CLASSIFICATIONS – A-Cognitive||A SPECIFIC CATEGORIES – Ds-Dismissing of attachment|
|A1 Idealizing||Ds1 Dismissing/idealizing (A1 in children?)|
|A2 Distancing||Ds3 Restricted in feeling (A2 in children?)|
|A3 Compulsive caregiving|
|A3- Compulsive attending|
|A4 Compulsive compliance|
|A4- Compulsive performance|
|A5 Promiscuous sexual|
|A5- Promiscuous social|
|A6 Self-reliant isolated|
|A6- Self-reliant social|
|A7 Delusional idealization|
|A8 Externally assembled self|
|A+ (undetermined classification in A3-8 range)||E3 (E3 is a “c” concept, relates to A+ in some cases, according to Crittenden and Landini, 2011 )|
|Ds3b Absent/inconsistent/contradicted indices|
|(Ds4 relates to DMM Modifier Ul(a), Unresolved loss, anticipatory form)||Ds4 Cutoff from source of fear of death of the child|
|C-CLASSIFICATIONS (DMM)||C-CATEGORIES (ABC+D)|
|(Young children can utilize DMM strategies up to C3/4, older children and adults can utilize lower and higher numbered strategies)||(Adult categories. Children can be categorized C, C1, C2)|
|C COMMON TERMS||C COMMON TERMS|
|Affectively organized self-protective strategies|
Oscillating aggressive and disarming behaviors
Intensity of feelings
Things are not predictable, no order to how things happen Coercive
Obsessive coercion (C3 and higher)
|Resistant/ambivalent, switching proximity-seeking and contact-maintaining with contact-resisting and distress-communication (Ainsworth, children)|
Entangled, preoccupied (ABC+D adult)
|C SPECIFIC CLASSIFICATIONS – C-Affective||C SPECIFIC CATEGORIES – E-entangled/preoccupied|
|C1 Threateningly angry (Irritated)||E2 Angry/conflicted preoccupied|
|C2 Disarmingly desirous of comfort||E1 Passive preoccupied|
|C3 Aggressively angry|
|C4 Feigned helplessness||E4/E3? Fearfully preoccupied / traumatic events|
|C5 Punitively angry||Ds2 Devaluing attachment (note: this is an A category but relates to DMM C5, according to Crittenden and Landini, 2011)|
|C6 Seductive and obsessed with rescue|
C5 Transient derogatory (C3-C5 border)
C5-6 Indefinite struggle (C3-4/C5-6 border)
C5 OR C6 Stonewalling (C5-6 extreme)
|C+ (Undetermined classification in C3-8 range)||E3 (in some cases)|
E3a Confused fearful, fearful preoccupied, overwhelmed by traumatic / frightening experiences
E3b Distressing loss of memory in apparent relation to traumatic experiences
|C-Even (C2, C4, C6, C8)||?E3a Confused fearful, overwhelmed by traumatic / frightening experiences|
|C-Odd (C1, C3, C5, C7)|
|DMM A-C COMBINED CLASSIFICATIONS||ABC+D (?does not describe blended patterns?)|
AC Blended dysfunctional
(A and C strategies are fluidly blended, more intense forms are dysfunctional. Extreme forms describe psychopathy.)
A/C Alternating dysfunctional
(Alternative A or C patterns depending on interaction with specific person or context.)
|OTHER CLASSIFICATIONS (DMM)||OTHER CATEGORIES (ABC+D)|
|CC Cannot classify||CC Cannot classify (often these are A+, C+, AC or A/C in DMM)|
|Unclassifiable (usually because Adult Attachment Interview was done incorrectly or incomplete)||Unclassfiable|
|IO Insecure Other|
|DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT (DMM)||DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT (ABC_D)|
|There is no disorganized category or state||Disorganized is a state, it is not a category similar to the A, B, C categories. |
NOTE: Disorganized attachment is no longer a valid construct for forensic and clinical purposes, see Granqvist, et al (43 total authors), 2017.
|Disorganization indices (accompany A, B, or C categorization)|
|I. sequential display of contradictory behavior patterns|
|II. Simultaneous display of contradictory behavior patterns|
|III. Undirected, misdirected, incomplete, and interrupted movements|
|IV. Stereotypies, asymmetical movements, mistimed movements, and anamalous postures|
|V. Freezing, stilling, and slowed movements and expressions|
|VI. Direct indices of apprehension regarding the parent|
|VII. Direct indices of disorganization or disorientation|
|DMM MODIFIERS||ABC+D MODIFIERS|
|Dp Depression |
R Reorganizing (is a modifier of a strategy, not a strategy)
[ess] Expression of somatic effect
[ina] Intrusion of negative affect (in high A strategies)
(not a complete list)
|Ul (unresolved loss) & Utr (unresolved trauma) 14 types||Ul (unresolved loss) & Utr (unresolved trauma) 7(?) types|
Please contribute to the development of this list. If you have information or citations to articles that provide more information, please contact us.
Resources for learning about the DMM are available here.
Ainsworth, Mary D., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978), Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the Strange Situation, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.
Ainsworth, Mary D. (1984), Attachment, in N.S. Endler & J. McVicker Hunt (eds.), Personality and the behavioral disorders (2nd ed. pp. 559-602, Wiley, New York NY.
Baldoni, Franco, and Mattia Minghetti, Giuseppe Craparo, Elisa Facondini, Loredana Cena & Adriano Schimmenti (2018), Comparing Main, Goldwyn, and Hesse (Berkeley) and Crittenden (DMM) coding systems for classifying Adult Attachment Interview transcripts: an empirical report, Attachment & Human Development, 20:4, 423-438, DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2017.1421979
Minghetti, Mattia (2017). Representational and Dynamic-Maturational models of Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) coding systems compared. Ph.D. dissertation. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze psicologiche. Studiorum Università di Bologna. http://amsdottorato.unibo.it/7981/1/Tesi%20Dottorato%20con%20frontespizo.pdf (Note: Minghetti used the same data set of 100 AAI transcripts used by Baldoni et al, above. This thesis describes the differences in AAI results between the two coding systems in more detail, in some regards, than the article above. It also describes in more detail the author’s view of the difference between the two theoretical approaches. There is some explanation about how the ABC+D model is designed for research and not for classifying individuals, and why the DMM can be used for both.)
Crittenden, Patricia, & Landini, Andrea, (2011), Assessing adult attachment: A dynamic-maturational approach to discourse analysis, Appendix B, p. 388-389, comparing DMM to Main and Goldwyn Adult Attachment Interview classifications/categories. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Duschinsky, Robbie (2015), The emergence of the disorganized/disoriented (D) attachment classification, 1979-1982, History of Psychology, 18:1, 32-46.
Duschinksy, Robbie (2020), Cornerstones of attachment research, Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordclinicalpsych.com/view/10.1093/med-psych/9780198842064.001.0001/med-9780198842064
Pehr Granqvist, L. Alan Sroufe, Mary Dozier, Erik Hesse, Miriam Steele, Marinus van Ijzendoorn, Judith Solomon, Carlo Schuengel, Pasco Fearon, Marian Bakermans-Kranenburg, Howard Steele, Jude Cassidy, Elizabeth Carlson, Sheri Madigan, Deborah Jacobvitz, Sarah Foster, Kazuko Behrens, Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Naomi Gribneau, Gottfried Spangler, Mary J Ward, Mary True, Susan Spieker, Sophie Reijman, Samantha Reisz, Anne Tharner, Frances Nkara, Ruth Goldwyn, June Sroufe, David Pederson, Deanne Pederson, Robert Weigand, Daniel Siegel, Nino Dazzi, Kristin Bernard, Peter Fonagy, Everett Waters, Sheree Toth, Dante Cicchetti, Charles H Zeanah, Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Mary Main & Robbie Duschinsky (2017) Disorganized attachment in infancy: a review of the phenomenon and its implications for clinicians and policy-makers, Attachment & Human Development, 19:6, 534-558, DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2017.1354040