Attachment and Attention in Sport

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Kelly A. Forrest University of Washington, Tacoma

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Attachment (Bowlby, 1969/1982) is an interdisciplinary theory of social development that views early relationships with caregivers as central to how individuals learn to regulate attention under attachment-related stress (Fonagy & Target, 2002; Main, 2000; Hesse & Main, 2000). This paper proposes that conditions present in competitive sport situations, such as unexpected conditions, fear of failure, fatigue, and coach stress are likely to activate attachment-related attentional processes of athletes and differentially influence attentional flexibility under competitive stress. The attachment-based approach to performance-related problems in which attentional processes are implicated, such as anxiety, choking, and self-regulation, is discussed. Research using the Adult Attachment Interview (George, Kaplan, & Main, 1996) is suggested to investigate the distribution of adult attachment classification in the athlete population.

Kelly A. Forrest is with the University of Washington, Tacoma, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. E-mail:

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