Bowlby's Attachment Theory

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In this paper Bowlby's theory of attachment and child care will be outlined along with additions from other theorists such as Rutter and Ainsworth. From this we will see how the evolution of the family unit since 1950s has been affected by such theories along with welfare policy and social theorists which have influenced family life and child care practices in the UK. Bowlby described attachment as the bond that develops between a baby and its primary caregiver. It is characterised by the interaction patterns which develop in order to fulfil the infants' needs and emotional development. Bowlby noted the apparent distress in children separated from their mothers in unusual circumstances e.g. hospitalisation. In studying the more abnormal and distressing situations he attempted to shed light on an understanding of normal emotional attachment development, and how a disruption could prove damaging to the child emotionally and through to adult maturation. Bowlby suggested that the presence of the mother was just as crucial to the baby as being supplied basic needs such as food. His conclusions led him to postulate that the distress at separation from the mother was universal in babies. Bowlby characterised this distress as following the pattern of infant protest, followed by despair and ending in eventual detachment. The term 'separation anxiety' was brought about echoing ethological survival techniques in which patterns of actions enable survival of young animals. Such ideas influenced Bowlby in postulating a significant period attachment of one to five years which was imperative historically to biological survival, and if were not in place then emotional and intellectual problems would occur in adulthood. This can be seen as a rigid attitude and has played a large part in influencing childcare decisions through the establishment of a connection between maternal

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