Failed mourning in the Adult Attachment Interview: The case of Holocaust child survivors

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In the present study attachment theory was used as a conceptual framework to investigate the long-term effects of the Holocaust on child survivors. Child survivors who as children lost both mothers and fathers as a result of the Holocaust (N=48), were administered the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) in their late adulthood. They were expected to display enduring disorganization from their horrible experiences with loss of attachment figures, and indeed the results confirmed the lasting effects of the Holocaust on the survivors who displayed a very high rate of unresolved loss (U; 42%). At the same time, however, a number of child survivors (n=4) displayed clear markers of failed mourning that might be seen as another alternative to unsatisfactory completion of the mourning process (integral part of the traditional U-category). Such markers were never discussed in length by the traditional coding system of the AAI. The implications of viewing failed mourning as part of unresolved loss are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-409
Number of pages12
JournalAttachment and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Holocaust study was funded by the German-Israel Foundation for Research and Development (GIF #279) and by the Koehler Stiftung (Munich). We wish to thank the AAI interviewers: Sarit Alkalay, Noa Egoz-Mizrachi, Yael Goshen, Sarit Guttmann and Ran Navon. Special thanks are due to Erik Hesse, Karlen Lyons-Ruth, Mary Main, Miriam Steele, Howard Steele and Marinus van IJzendoorn, for their contributions, advice and helpful discussions.


  • Attachment
  • Catastrophic loss
  • Failed mourning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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