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2016 Abstracts

Creating a Monster: Attachment Theory in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Sam Passey, Lyndsey Graig, Christine Fiscer, RonJai Staton, Jeremy Scritchfield, Barbara Balbas, Amy Harmon, Craig Demke, Joey Jergins, Tim Bywater, and Dannelle Larsen Rife, Dixie State University

Life Sciences

Research in human development suggests relationships are vital for physiological and emotional well-being across the lifespan. Attachment theory is foundational for relationships and is intrinsic in human nature as it is represented through words of novelists. Attachments are developed within the first year of life based on caregivers’ appropriate, contingent, and prompt responses to the infant’s cues. Avoidant attachment develops when the infant receives minimal responses to his or her cues. John Bowlby proposed the attachment relationship between the infant and parent creates an internal working model (IWM). This IWM sets the foundation of all subsequent close relationships throughout the lifespan. Individuals who have avoidant attachment representations are dismissive of, and lack security in relationships. Living in a time where women were marginalized, segregated, and many lacked formal education, Mary Shelley effectively produced a popular work of fiction in the early 1800s. Shelley was a keen observer of relationships long before Attachment Theory was developed in the 1960s. Psychobiographical methods were used to examine Shelley’s Frankenstein as a case study of Attachment Theory. Results suggest Shelley’s Frankenstein depicts basic components of attachment theory, and “Frankenstein,” the monster character, exemplifies avoidant attachment. Through his dismissive and proximity seeking behaviors, the monster characterizes Bowlby’s description of avoidant attachment. Lacking relationships during critical periods for development of empathy, the monster loses the ability to feel remorse. This critical examination of early British literature as a case study for Attachment Theory lends retrospective support for the understanding of human relationships.