Early experiences can lead to various attachment types that impact our ability to be in loving relationships with ourselves, partners, or children. Discover the best books on attachment theory that break down the power of attachment on our communication skills and adult relationships (including our adult-child relationship as parents). These books discuss how to heal these emotional bonds and become safe havens for ourselves and others.
If you already know you”re one of the insecure attachments, we suggest heading to the bottom of this post. You’ll find specific recommendations for disorganized, avoidant, and anxious attachment styles.
by John Bowlby
I feel like you cannot have a list of books on attachment theory without including A Secure Base. A compilation of cornerstone insights from the founder of attachment theory himself, John Bowlby.
John Bowlby is a world famous psychiatrist, the author of Attachment, Separation, and Loss.
This book was written back in the 1980s, so much of the content today may seem a bit obvious. However, it was ground breaking at the time. Bowlby’s work (as well as Mary Ainsworth’s) color the modern movements of conscious, gentle, attunement, and respectful parenting we see today.
A Secure Base is a short book based on Bowlby’s clinical work, so some readers may find it a bit dense as many believe it was written for other professionals. Even so, it holds a special place in my heart as a professor suggested I read it while getting my degree in psychology and it became the first book on attachment theory I ever read and have only found it more valuable as I’ve gone back to re-read it as a mother.
Takeaway: Worth the read if you want to get to the roots of attachment theory that has shaped many of the popular parenting books in recent years on the importance of emotional development.
By Amir Levine M.D. and Rachel Heller M.A.
Attachment theory often centers around the parent-child relationship, but in this simplified modern take, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller examine the role science places in our romantic relationships.
While a dating book may seem a little odd for parents looking to better understand attachment theory, it’s actually a really important area to evaluate as our relationships become our children’s schema and can ultimately dictate what all of their relationships will look like.
Through this book, you will learn what attachment theory is, and how to use it to find and keep love by understanding which of the three main styles (avoidant attachment style, anxious attachment style, or secure attachment style) you and others embody in relationships.
Attached does a great job of helping you understand how your past helps shape your relationship with yourself and others. This self awareness gives you the tools to model and build strong relationships for yourself and your children. It gives you a much deeper perspective than just understanding love languages. The book provides quizzes, insights, and case studies to help you build a path toward finding love and also improving your current relationship(s).
NOTE: This book is a very simplified look at attachment styles and does not get into the abusive nature any of the styles can ultimately take on or the disorganized attachment style. It’s definitely an introductory look at these dynamics in relationships.
by Robert Karen
Becoming Attached by Robert Karen is probably one of the more dense books on attachment theory, as it walks you through quite a bit of the history on how the controversial work of British psychoanalyst, John Bowlby, and American developmental psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, launched this attachment based revolution in child psychology we see today.
We still thing it’s worth the read, especially for those who like to understand how historic lenses bias modern suggestions and want to skip reading Bowlby’s actual work.
With a deep foundation and understanding on the history in place, Karen goes on to examine how the early parent-child bond shapes who we become in life – from our personality to the relationships we have as adults – Karen tackles some of the most pertinent questions many parents often wonder about.
For instance, many parents today are faced with having to send their young children off to daycare before they (both the parent and child) may feel ready. He looks at ways parents can manage the potential negative effects of situations like this. As well as how parents can instill a positive sense of self and lay a foundation for healthy relationships within their children.
Parents will be called to reflect upon their own childhood and life through Karen’s difficult questions about yourself, your childhood, and your connection with your child(ren).
NOTE: this book was written in the 90s and does have a pretty strong Freudian undertone that may not resonate with more progressive ideas today.
Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive
by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.
Parenting from the Inside Out is a great book in the mindful parenting space as the title suggests; however it’s quite a heavy read.
Child psychiatrist, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and early childhood expert, Mary Hartzell, M.Ed come together to offer a step-by-step approach to understand their own childhood and life stories and the direct impact of that shapes our parenting. This book is backed by a lot of attachment research and new findings in neurobiology and how communication impacts brain development; which makes it a denser read for the layperson.
Readers will learn how to identify and understand the repeating generational patterns that cause us to become exactly like our parents, which we swore we would never do. It also does a good job of guiding and teaching the reader how to rectify any mistakes you made with your children, whether they be words you wish you never said, or actions you wish you could take back.
If you’re the science/research backed type, you’ll love this book. If not, we suggest The Whole Brain Child instead, which is a more reader friendly neuroscience backed approach to conscious parenting; but incorporate attachment theory a bit less.
Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child’s Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore
by Kent Hoffman, Glen Cooper, Bert Powell
Raising A Secure child is a breath of fresh air for today’s parents who face unprecedented pressures of being “perfect” thanks to the rise of social media.
The authors look at how our striving for perfectionism, can actually lead to an insecure attachment. They walk you through how to balance the extremes of nurturing (coddling) or over protection to really support your child’s independence.
Additionally, they help parents understand a toddler or older child’s difficult behavior through the lens of unmet emotional needs. Lastly, they have you examine your own upbringing to gain insights through quizzes/checklists into how that shapes your parenting style and offer valuable tips on how to move forward with the new self awareness.
by Annie Chen, LMFT
If you’re looking for a more interactive and actionable book on Attachment Theory and how it can be applied to your life then Annie Chen’s Attachment Theory Workbook is a great choice.
This helpful handbook of attachment provides powerful tools from different exercises and questionnaires to understand your current attachment style and heal it by moving towards a deeper understanding and stability within yourself. This is one of the best self-help books for those who love concrete practices, and the ability to look back on how far they’ve come.
NOTE: Many of the exercises in this book rely on a “remember a time when…” format. For those who have experienced trauma, recalling memories can feel very difficult. Here’s the good news people don’t often talk about with this type of technique: it can literally be a time from earlier that day. Often times we feel this pressure to recall something from our childhood or years ago; but for these types of therapeutic techniques to be effective you just need anytime even if it was yesterday. If you can’t think of something, simply place a bookmark there and keep your eye out for that situation over the course of the week. Typically when healing attachment styles, we see old dynamics play out regularly without even realizing it.
by Daniel N. Stern
As a primary caregiver, it’s normal to want a better understanding of what our babies are thinking and feeling when they don’t have many ways of communicating. Daniel N. Stern is a recognized thought leader in infant development and psychiatry. In his book, Diary Of A Baby, he explores what it’s like in a child’s consciousness by bringing the baby’s inner world forward through easy to understand explanations.
While some found the writing to be a little awkward, many rave about how Stern brings the reader through a journey with an infant from 4 months to 4 years old to better understand their perspectives.
This is a useful and fun read and will help you better understand how your words, actions and reactions help shape a child from the earliest day, and shape their attachment to you and others around them. Overall, you’ll walk away with a better understanding as to why your baby may cry or engage in seemingly odd behaviors and the importance of attunement between you and your infant.
by Thais Gibson
A comprehensive, yet easy to follow, look at John Bowlby’s attachment theory, in a modern way to help you heal current and future relationships in your life. We love that this book includes simple quizzes, summaries, and actionable strategies to reprogram your subconscious patterns and heal your romantic, platonic, and familial relationships.
As we know with attachment theory, our behaviors, the ability to have intimacy, and develop close healthy relationships is usually shaped by our childhood experiences. Thais Gibson combines traditional psychological methodologies with knowledge of subconscious patterns and more modern theories to provide meaningful tools to create significant changes and build a secure relationship with others.
You’ll learn how to apply acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral theory (CBT), Gestalt, and other psychological techniques to your specific attachment style while learning how to meet your own needs in the healing process.
There are many simple truth bombs throughout this book we think can serve as daily reminders in the healing process too. For instance: “Most of us think that we are arguing about being right versus being wrong. The truth is, we are almost always arguing about being seen, heard, and understood by our loved ones.“
by Mike & Kristin Berry
Securely Attached is probably one of our favorite books for parents on attachment theory. While many others on this list do a recap and offer practical advice, few actually dive into the trauma often associated with insecure attachment styles.
While the authors wrote this book through the lense of their experience as foster and adoptive parents, it offers valuable insights for everyone. The insights found in this book are backed by medical facts and validated therapeutic techniques, but it’s written from the perspective of a parent making it an easy read.
In this you’ll discover how trauma changes the brain and identifying trauma induced behaviors and attachment disorders. Additionally, this book covers how to advocate for your child and getting help you need to navigate creating a safe, supportive, and secure attachment.
Though this book is definitely geared towards fostering and adopting, the reality is we all have varying degrees of trauma in our life that can impact how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world at any given time. If you can keep that in mind while reading, you will find it’s a really good book with lots of valuable insight in reparenting yourself or your own children who have been through tough times.
FAQs About Attachment Theory
What is the best attachment theory?
A secure attachment is considered the ultimate goal in attachment theory. This attachment style is typically described as warm, easy to get along with, and content in their relationships.
What are the 4 types of attachment theory?
John Bowlby identified four attachment styles including: secure, avoidant, anxious/ambivalent, and disorganized.
Is attachment theory still valid?
Generally speaking, attachment theory is still very valid. Over the years it has been adapted to keep up with research findings and modern times.
One of the biggest areas that has shifted from Bowlby’s original findings is the number of attachments one can develop to impact their style. Initially, Bowlby believed an infant’s attachment style solely depended on the relationship with their mother. Rudolph Shaffer and Peggy Emerson conducted their own study which found multiple attachments are actually possible through close relationships.
One of the areas attachment theory really broke ground around, and continues to remain relevant today, was the notion that emotional neglect can have as strong of an impact on a child as physical abuse. Today we see how this information underpins many of the gentle, respectful, and conscious parenting movements.
Is it too late to start attachment parenting?
It’s never too late to start attachment parenting with your child, or even re-parenting for yourself.
Which attachment style is most beneficial to parents?
The most beneficial attachment style for parents, and really everyone, is a secure attachment.
Parents should be aware, in order to have a secure attachment with your child, you often need a secure attachment with other relationships in your life. Ideally you’ll do this work before having kids, but know that you can (and should) work on your attachment style with your own parents, partner, or even friends if the relationships are conducive to healing.
FAQs About Books On Attachment Theory
What are the best books for healing avoidant, anxious, or disorganized attachment styles?
For avoidant, anxious, or disorganized attachment styles there is a level of trauma that often needs to be worked through. We really love The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk as it discusses how the body holds onto and remembers traumatic experiences and kicks our nervous system into overdrive, particularly in non threatening situations. This is something those who do not possess a secure attachment style can often relate to. The book also provides strategies for working through these responses.
Additionally, Overcoming Insecure Attachment by Tracy Crossley is a great read for all of the “insecure” attachment styles. Unlike most of the picks on the list, it skips the history/explanations and jumps into the actionable steps since you’ve already identified your attachment style going in. It really breaks down subconscious patterns and gives you the tools to create stronger relationships.
What is the best book for avoidant attachment?
For a fearful/avoidant attachment style we like Avoidant Attachment No More! by Taha Zaid. While it’s a newer book providing simple strategies we think it’s a good, gentle entry point for those with this style.
Additionally, the two books mentioned in the previous question
What are the best attachment theory books for therapists?
When studying to become a therapist myself, the number one book my professors recommended was A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development.
Additionally mental health professionals should read Attachment Theory in Practice: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with Individuals, Couples, and Families. It’s a practical guide on the clinical application of attachment theory that Dr. John Gottman labeled as a “must read.”
It combines research with a well organized roadmap for treating individuals, couples, and families. Understanding these concepts are critical for the health of the therapeutic relationship.
What are the best books on anxious attachment?
An excellent book for anxious attachment types is Attached: Becoming More Secure in Life and Love by Jessica Baum, LMHC. It’s a great entry book for anxious attachments as it focuses on creating safety to do the work in healing. We do want to caution, the ultimate goal in healing an anxious attachment is not rigid boundaries. While boundaries are an important stepping stone along the healing journey.
What are the best books on disorganized attachment?
Since a disorganized attachment style is a combination of anxious and avoidant styles, any of the aforementioned books are great too.
What attachment theory book can teach about love and relationships?
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love is one of the best books for romantic relationships. Additionally, we love The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships for building a loving, long-term relationship.
Both of these books provide a world of insights for romantic partners getting started or for making marriage work.
Final thoughts on attachment theory books
Discovering a different way to respond to emotional experiences and build a good relationship with yourself and others is key to resolving relationship problems. These books all have great personal anecdotes, backed by decades of research, to help you examine how childhood experiences impact your own attachment style.
We think Attached, by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel S. F. Heller is a great science backed book broken down into simple words to help with your own attachment style and a look inside your partner’s brain based off theirs.
For first time parents, we love Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love.
Check out all our movie + book recommendations here!