46 Facts About John Bowlby


Edward John Mostyn Bowlby, CBE, FBA, FRCP, FRCPsych was a British psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, notable for his interest in child development and for his pioneering work in attachment theory.


John Bowlby was the fourth of six children and was brought up by a nanny in the British fashion of his class at that time: the family hired a nanny who was in charge of raising the children, in a separate nursery in the house.


John Bowlby was raised primarily by nursemaid Minnie who acted as a mother figure to him and his siblings.


John Bowlby's parents met at a party in 1897 through a mutual friend.


Normally, John Bowlby saw his mother only one hour a day after teatime, though during the summer she was more available.


John Bowlby was fortunate in that the family nanny was present throughout his childhood.


When John Bowlby was almost four years old, the nursemaid Minnie, his primary caregiver in his early years, left the family.


John Bowlby came home once or twice a year and had little contact with him and his siblings.


John Bowlby's mother received letters from Anthony but she did not share them with her children.


At the age of seven, John Bowlby was sent to [school ], as was common for boys of his social status.


John Bowlby's parents decided to send both him and his older brother Tony to a prep school, to protect them from the bombing attacks due to the ongoing war.


John Bowlby later said, "I wouldn't send a dog away to boarding school at age seven".


However, earlier John Bowlby had considered boarding schools appropriate for children aged eight and older.


John Bowlby married Ursula Longstaff, the daughter of a surgeon, on 16 April 1938, and they had four children, including Sir Richard John Bowlby, who succeeded his uncle as third Baronet.


John Bowlby died at his summer home on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.


John Bowlby's father was a well-known surgeon in London and Bowlby explained that he was encouraged by his father to study medicine at Cambridge.


When John Bowlby gave up medicine, he took a teaching opportunity at a school called Priory Gates for six months where he worked with maladjusted children.


John Bowlby further explained that the experience at Priory Gates was extremely influential to his career in research as he learned that the problems of today should be understood and dealt with at a developmental level.


John Bowlby studied psychology and pre-clinical sciences at Trinity College, Cambridge, winning prizes for outstanding intellectual performance.


Later on in the war, John Bowlby became a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he conducted research on psychological methods of officer selection and where he came into contact with members of the Tavistock Clinic.


Alongside his job in the Royal Army Medical Corps, John Bowlby explained that he worked for the Emergency Medical Services during the months of May and June in 1940 where he dealt with tragic war neurosis cases.


John Bowlby explained in an interview that he spent time going back and forth from Cambridge to London, where he would see patients in private.


From this experience, John Bowlby was able to work with several children at Cambridge that were evacuated from London and separated from their families and nannies.


John Bowlby studied several children during his time at the Canonbury clinic, and developed a research project based on case studies of the children's behaviors and family histories.


John Bowlby examined 44 delinquent children from Canonbury who had a history of stealing and compared them to "controls" from Canonbury that were being treated for various reasons but did not have a history of stealing.


John Bowlby categorized the delinquent children into six different character types which included: normal, depressed, circular, hyperthymic, affectionless, and schizoid.


John Bowlby's interest was probably increased by a variety of wartime events involving separation of young children from familiar people.


John Bowlby was interested from the beginning of his career in the problem of separation, the wartime work of Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham on evacuees, and the work of Rene Spitz with orphans.


John Bowlby was interested in finding out the patterns of family interaction involved in both healthy and pathological development.


John Bowlby focused on how attachment difficulties were transmitted from one generation to the next.


John Bowlby played the primary role in suggesting that several attachment styles existed.


John Bowlby drew together such limited empirical evidence as existed at the time from across Europe and the US.


John Bowlby broke with psychoanalytic theories which saw infants' internal life as being determined by fantasy rather than real life events.


John Bowlby then went on to describe the subsequent development of attachment theory.


John Bowlby was inspired by the study Lorenz conducted on goslings, showing that they imprint on the first animate object they see.


John Bowlby was encouraged by an evolutionary biologist, Julian Huxley, to look further into ethology to help further his research in psychoanalysis as he introduced John Bowlby to the impactful work by Tinbergen on "The Study of Instinct".


John Bowlby followed this guidance and became interested in ethology as he wanted to rewrite psychoanalysis in order to focus this research field around a concrete theory in which psychoanalysis was lacking.


John Bowlby admired the methodological approach to ethology that psychoanalysis was not familiar with.


From reading widely in ethology, John Bowlby was able to learn that ethologists supported the theoretical ideas through concrete empirical data.


John Bowlby introduced the concepts of environmentally stable or labile human behaviour allowing for the revolutionary combination of the idea of a species-specific genetic bias to become attached and the concept of individual differences in attachment security as environmentally labile strategies for adaptation to a specific childrearing niche.


Alternatively, John Bowlby's thinking about the nature and function of the caregiver-child relationship influenced ethological research, and inspired students of animal behaviour such as Tinbergen, Hinde, and Harry Harlow.


One of Harlow's students, Stephen Suomi, wrote about the contributions John Bowlby's made to ethology, including that Harlow brought attachment research into animal research specifically with rhesus monkeys and various other species of monkeys and apes.


Furthermore, Suomi wrote that John Bowlby brought to the field of ethology the acknowledgement of the consequences over time from different attachment styles that are prevalent in rhesus monkeys.


John Bowlby spurred Hinde to start his ground breaking work on attachment and separation in primates, and in general emphasized the importance of evolutionary thinking about human development that foreshadowed the new interdisciplinary approach of evolutionary psychology.


John Bowlby rejected psychoanalytic explanations for attachment, and in return, psychoanalysts rejected his theory.


John Bowlby's last work, published posthumously, is a biography of Charles Darwin, which discusses Darwin's "mysterious illness" and whether it was psychosomatic.