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date: 18 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

According to attachment theory (Bowlby, 1973, 1982), the optimal functioning of the attachment behavioral system and the resulting sense of security in dealing with life’s challenges and difficulties facilitate the functioning of other behavioral systems, including the caregiving system that governs the activation of prosocial behavior and compassionate acts of helping needy others. In this chapter, we focus on what we have learned about the interplay of the attachment and caregiving systems and their effects on compassion and altruism. We begin by explaining the behavioral system construct in more detail and show how individual differences in a person’s attachment system affect the functioning of the caregiving system. We review examples from the literature on attachment, focusing on what attachment theorists call providing a “safe haven” for needy others. We then review studies that have shown how individual differences in attachment affect empathy, compassion, and support provision.

Keywords: attachment, caregiving, compassion, security, prosocial behaviors, behavioral systems, empathy, social support

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