An Overview of Bowlbys Attachment Theory and Related Psychology

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John Bowlby (1907-1990) introduced modern day psychology to the importance of mother-infant relationships and their dynamics. Bowlby was trained as a psychoanalyst and studied a myriad of concepts from ethology, cybernetics, developmental psychology and cognition all leading him to the formulation of his attachment theory. This theory was sparked from Bowlby’s report on the mental health of homeless children in postwar Europe. Bowlby extensively reviewed then-current material on institutionalized children separated from parents and concluded that in order for a mentally healthy adulthood, “ the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment” (Bowlby, 1969). With this information, Bowlby realized that the current explanation from Freud that infants love their mother because of oral gratification was wrong. His new theory stated that infants are social from a very young age, 6 months to less than two years old. The infants become focused on a particular individual or a few individuals. Bowlby proposed that “patterns of relating acquired in the early parent-child relationship are internalized and form the basis for how an individual enters and subsequently maintains other close relationships” (Bretherton). Bowlby's aim was to discover the consequences of difficulties in forming attachments in childhood, and the effects this would have on an infant's later development. Drawing on much work in the psychoanalytic literature, such as that of Freud and Harlow, Bowlby formulated the idea that infants develop a close emotional bond with an attachment figure early in life, and that the success or failure of this earliest of relationships lead the infant to form a mental representation that would have profound effects on their later relationships and their own success as a
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