Is feigned clumsy a subcategory of C-pattern attachment strategies? Is it different enough from feigned helplessness to warrant some thinking about it? We’ll look at a Toddler Care Index (TCI) video which will beg the question.
We will also consider former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a person who is often described as clumsy and clownish. If you watch the short video linked below, notice what you focus on, and who you don’t focus on.
Some of the attachment-related questions we can ask
If this is a useful behavioral marker, what are it’s hallmarks and what is the function? Is it a type of disarming behavior? A coy behavior? Is it keeping the parent off-balance, unsure how to predict the child’s feelings and reactions, and attentive to meet the child’s need for attention? Is it a form of adorableness? Is it an organized strategy which demands attention rather than rescue? Is it an “improved” form of feigned helplessness, which keeps the parents close, but with clownish clumsiness instead of helplessness (a “C4- clumsy” akin to an “A4- performance”)?
The AAI is probably not much help in identifying clumsy behavior, but we could start looking for such markers. The PAA and TCI offer possibilities.
Type-C attachment strategies in 2-5 year old children, in the PAA
The Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA) manual (2016, unpublished) includes the following concepts classically seen in C-patterns. They involve an exaggerated affect, split into showing threatening and angry vs vulnerable and weak behavior. The oscillation of these two affects and associated behaviors are actively regulated by the child based upon feedback loops from assessing how the parent reacts to the different affect displays.
There is an underlying struggle which runs through the interaction. The children display guilt and concern, but when the attachment figure displays extreme guilt the child can become threateningly aggressive. Extreme parental behavior in response to the child’s assertive display of anger can lead to helpless appeals for nurturance. For C3-4 children, problems in the child-parent relationship are pervasive and not tied to specified problems which could be resolved.
There are many forms of disarming behavior. Some type-C children display feigned helplessness, appearing to be entirely incompetent to care for themselves while inhibiting displays of anger. (Some parents are desperate to keep their children close and demand this, but children may become “resentful caregivers.”) Adorableness is a form of disarming behavior, where the child appears shy, fearful and meek. Supplication is a more intense form of disarming behavior, which includes “apparent incompetence.”
Please join us as we apply these well-established attachment concepts to the idea of feigned clumsiness.
Date and time: 6 February 2024. 9:00 a.m. in Seattle; noon in Miami; 5:00 p.m. in London
Host: Mark Baumann, and group discussion
Invitation: To all DMM Group Talk members and by invitation. Please invite your friends and colleagues.
Cost: Free, as always
Recording: This session will not be recorded for privacy and to facilitate open discussion
Zoom link to register: Contact us for a Zoom link
Upcoming DMM sessions
20 February 2024: DMM Case Consultation Group
5 March 2024: DMM Coffee House: What treatment modalities work best for specific attachment strategies? This will be a no-host group-share session about your experiences, and we can start to build out a list.
19 March 2024: DMM Case Consultation Group
DMM Coffee House 2024 goals:
Expanding and applying DMM insights into clinical practice, and making more connections to other attachment-specific models and modalities not specifically attachment focused.
Please consider hosting a session. You can share research/book report/school project you like or have done, case examples that offered an interesting learning point or curious question. One of our most unusual and interesting sessions involved Louise Atkin engaging in a live discussion with a client for whom the DMM helped find peace. Louise interviewed her client, and then her client interviewed Louise.