Attachment Theory Essay

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Theoretical Basis and Research Attachment theory explains the role that the dynamic relationship between a child and caregiver plays in shaping an individual’s interpersonal relationships (Bowlby, 1969). One of the central tenets of attachment theory is the concept that children form internal working models of attachment based on the children’s thoughts about themselves and the children’s expectation about their caregiver’s availability and responsiveness (Bowlby, 1973). Working models allow children to develop cognitive schemas about themselves and others in order to predict and plan for the responsiveness of the caregiver. Early attachment relationships teach children how to regulate internal and external stimulation. In response to fear, children develop patterned behaviors in order to manage the stress, difficulty, and overwhelming situations. Ainsworth and her colleagues (1978) along with Main and Solomon (1990) identified four types of attachment patterns in children: secure attachment, insecure-avoidant attachment, and insecure-ambivalent attachment, and disorganized-disoriented attachment. (See Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall (1978) and Main & Solomon (1990) for details on the four different attachment styles.) Attachment patterns formed in infancy remain relatively stable throughout childhood and adulthood (Hazan & Shaver, 1990). According to Bowlby (1973), a child’s attachment pattern forms in relationship to the primary caregiver and is usually generalized to subsequent relationships. Individuals at significant risk for developing maladaptive attachment relationships are children who are abused or neglected by their caregiver. Early disruptions in the attachment relationship thwart the child’s ability to regulate arousal, develop secure relationships, and cope with stress. Not able to use caregivers as a secure base for exploration, children
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