It’s all very well studying “Attachment”, looking at endless studies of very specific instances of insecure attachments (how rarely secure attachments are studied) … but it’s all fairly pointless.
The studies will tell you something, for sure. They may even tell you a truth which can be extrapolated from the survey sample to the general population.
But. The studies will tell you nothing about the poor individual suffering from an insecure attachment. All this nomoethetic stuff is interesting, but is it useful?
Not to me. Not to the man whose upteenth relationship has broken up because he cannot commit. Not to the woman who has driven away the man she loved so much with her clinging jealous behaviour. Not to the child who is dying inside but still smiling a pleasing smile. Not to the aggressive hoodie who has never known the security of a primary attachment with his father.
Nomothetic research may even help to identify how things happen, sometimes even why they happen, in general terms.
But we are not lab rats. We are individuals and only an idiographic approach will offer us any hope.
We need someone who will spend time with us establishing a safe relationship in which we can discover how things really were and help us to move on from that painful desert planted with mines to a more pleasant garden. Our troubles will be particular to us, not general to all boys or girls, men or women. Our way out will be individual, personal, wide enough only for us to tread, even if others may be reassured by knowing that, if we are picking our way out, then they can too.
[Nomothetic and idiographic are terms used by Kantian philosopher Wilhelm Windelband to describe two distinct approaches to knowledge, each one corresponding to a different intellectual tendency, and each one corresponding to a different branch of academe.
Idiographic is based on what Kant described as a tendency to specify, and is expressed in the humanities. It describes the effort to understand the meaning of contingent, accidental, and often subjective phenomena.] * from Wikipedia
The nomothetic approach to knowledge draws on our tendency to generalize, and is expressed in the natural sciences. It describes the effort to derive laws that explain objective phenomena. (“Nomothetic” f. Gk νομοθετικός, from νομοθέτης nomothetēs “lawgiver,” from νόμος nomos “law” and the root θη- thē- “posit, place, lay down,” thus “legislative [lit. law-giving].”)
For example, nomothetic psychology studies what we share with others, i.e., the quantifiableproperties of the cohort.
It is a Platonic (otherworldly, supersensible, Realist) approach, applying ideas to things. Plato the philosopher-king legislates.
It can go wrong, hence the nomothetic fallacy: the belief that naming a problem (or group or phenomenon) effectively solves it (or captures its essence).
The idiographic approach to knowledge draws on our tendency to specify, and is expressed in the social sciences (or humanities). It describes the effort to understand the meaning of contingent, accidental, and often subjective phenomena. (“Idiographic” f. Gk ιδιος-γραφιχος, from ídios“personal, peculiar, particular” + graphikós “written, drawn,” thus “describing the particular.”)
For example, idiographic psychology wants to discover what makes each of us unique, i.e., the distinctive qualities of the individual. Aristotle the scientist discovers.
It is an Aristotelian (worldly, sensory, naturalist) approach, finding ideas in things. (This Platonic/Aristotelian distinction is something of a hasty generalization, of course: with his inductive method, Aristotle is also a generalizer—and the mentor of natural science. But he does start from things rather than ideas.)
See Earl R. Babbie, ”Idiographic and Nomothetic Explanation,” The Practice of Social Research, 12th ed. (Cengage Learning, 2009) 21-22.