Applying the Dynamic-Maturational Model of Attachment and Adaptation in criminal justice interventions

AuthorClark Michael Baim
Date01 March 2020
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Applying the Dynamic-
Maturational Model of
Attachment and
Adaptation in criminal
justice interventions
Clark Michael Baim
Change Point Ltd, UK
This article describes how contemporary attachment theory can support accurate
assessment and effective intervention in criminal justice contexts. I offer an introduction
to Crittenden’s Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) of Attachment and Adaptation
and explain why this well-evidenced model is especially relevant to criminal justice
interventions. The DMM is a biopsychosocial model, informed by neurodevelopmental
research, and as such it offers a developmental understanding of the wide range of
adaptations used by people who are endangered or endangering to others. It is a
strengths-based, non-labelling and non-pathologising model which conceptualises
adaptations to danger as self-protective strategies that promote survival in their
original context, but which may later lead to problematic, dangerous, or self-defeating
attachment, assessment and formulation, biopsychosocial model, Dynamic-
Maturational Model (DMM) of attachment and adaptation, treatment intervention
Corresponding Author:
Clark Michael Baim, C hange Point Ltd, 45 Whe tstone Close, Birmi ngham, West Midlan ds B15 2QN,
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
2020, Vol. 67(1) 26–46
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550519900236
There is nothing as practical as a good theory.
– Lewin (1964 [1951])
Professionals who assess and offer interventions for people who have committed
offences should draw upon sound and well-evidenced theories of biopsychosocial
functioning and human development across the lifespan (Marshall et al., 2006).
Having a rigorous theory that is well supported by empirical research provides a
reliable framework for understanding the roots and context of the person’s beha-
viour, formulating intervention plans, and individually tailoring targets and inter-
ventions – all key ingredients of the risks-needs-responsivity model (Andrews and
Dowden, 2007).
Attachment strategies are increasingly being shown to have central importance
in assessment because they have far-reaching impacts on behavioural, emotional,
and cognitive function. Attachment theory is increasingly cited in support of psy-
chologically informed interventions in criminal justice (Adshead, 2002; Allam and
Baim, 2017; Pfa
¨fflin and Adshead, 2004; Renn, 2004; Rich, 2006a, 2006b;
Smallbone, 2006; Ward et al., 1996). In this article, I offer an introduction to
Crittenden’s Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) of Attachment and Adaptation
and explain why this model is especially relevant to criminal justice interventions.
My hope is that the reader will find that the DMM offers a relevant, common sense,
and practicable approach to attachment.
I write this article being highly cognisant of Maria Ansbro’s crucial and widely
referenced 2008 article in this journal about the applications of attachment theory
in probation work (Ansbro, 2008), and her recent qualitative research also pub-
lished in this journal (Ansbro, 2019). I, like many others, have been inspired by
these articles and found them very useful as reference points. To some degree, this
article is intended to build on Ansbro’s articles and the important findings regarding
the role of the probation officer as a transitional attachment figure and the relevance
of the person’s history in understanding the roots and development of offending
behaviour. This article, with its focus on the development of attachment strategies,
may also help to address one of the challenges highlighted by Ansbro, that is, that
some workers she surveyed found it difficult to understand and hold on to the dif-
ferent attachment patterns and their definitions (Ansbro, 2019). I hope to clarify
some of this perceived complexity and summarise what I think of as a common sense
model of attachment theory.
Attachment theory
Attachment theory provides a model for understanding the strategies we use
throughout our lives in order to adapt to danger and to stay alive, form relationships,
and ensure the survival of our children (Crittenden and Ainsworth, 1989; Landa and
Duschinsky, 2013). Early attachment research focused primarily on the relationship
Baim 27

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