What Is An Affectional Bond?

How our affectional bonds promote attachment, care, and proximity

Affectional bond
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According to attachment theory, an affectional bond is a form of attachment behavior that one person has towards another. Perhaps the most common example of an affectional bond is that between a parent and child. Other examples include the bond between romantic partners, friends and other family members.

What Exactly Is an Affectional Bond?

Psychologist John Bowlby described the term as he developed his highly influential attachment theory.

According to Bowlby, as a mother responds to the needs of her child, a strong affectional bond is formed. This bond becomes integrated into the child’s personality and serves as a basis for all future affectional ties.

Later, Bowlby’s colleague Mary Ainsworth described five criteria of affectional bonds:

  1. Affectional bonds are persistent rather than transitory. They often last for a long period of time and endure rather than coming and going.
  2. Affectional bonds are centered on a specific individual. People form strong feelings of attachment and affection towards certain people in their lives.
  3. The relationship involved in an affectional bond has strong emotional significance. These affectional bonds have a major impact on the lives of those who share them.
  4. The individual seeks contact and proximity with the person he or she has an affectional bond to. We desire to be physically close to the people we share affection with. 
  1. Involuntary separation from the individual leads to distress. In addition to seeking proximity, people become upset when they are parted from those they are attached to.

Ainsworth suggested that the addition of a sixth criteria, seeking comfort and security in the relationship, turned the tie from an affectional bond into a true attachment relationship.


Bowlby, J. (2005). The Making and Breaking of Affectional Bonds. Routledge Classics.

Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the child's tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 350-373.

Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1989). Attachments beyond infancy. American Psychologist, 44, 709-716.

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