Describe and Evaluate One Theory of Attachment and Consider its Significance on Child Rearing Today Bowlby (1951) was influenced by ethological studies that suggested infants were "genetically programmed to form attachments to a single caregiver within a critical time period." The critical time period described is called the "sensitive period," it is a period of time in which something is likely to occur. He suggested that "mother love in infancy is as important for mental health as vitamins and proteins are for physical health." Bowlby focused on the mother as the attachment figure. Bowlby argued that attachment was an "evolved mechanism;" an innate response that ensured the survival of the child.
Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure. The roots of research on attachment began with Freud's theories about love, but another researcher is usually credited as the father of attachment theory. John Bowlby devoted extensive research to the concept of attachment, describing it as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). Bowlby shared the psychoanalytic view that early experiences in childhood have an important influence on development and behaviour later in life. Our early attachment styles are established in childhood through the infant/caregiver relationship.
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
Bowlby claimed that infants need one special attachment relationship that is qualatively different from all others. Lastly, the internal working model which is developed through the monotropic attachment. This model represents the infant’s knowledge about his/her relationship with the primary attachment figure, in other words, the mother. It generates expectations about other relationships, so whatever relationship the mother has formed with their child, whether she is kind and loving, or aggressive and uncaring, the child will develop and have this expectation in mind of all future relationships. For example, Hazan and Shaver (1987) showed that there is a link between early attachment experiences and later romantic relationships.
He called this idea monotropy. He stated that the infant has only one primary caregiver to whom the child will form an attachment. However this idea has been contradicted by other psychologists who say that a child can form attachments to more than one person, for example to their mother as well as their father. A key feature of Bowlby’s theory is that the attachment formed as a child provides the child with an internal working model of relationships, which will in turn guide relationship behaviour in the future. A secure child will develop a positive internal working model of itself because of the sensitive emotional care it has received from its primary caregiver.
According to Bowlby (1973) a strong emotional bond between the mother figure and the infant called attachment has the biological origin. He hypothesised that for the baby to survive, it has to for an attachment, it needs to have a secure base, from which it can explore the environment and in times of danger or distress, a base it can return to for comfort and security. Bowlby argued that lack of such a secure base leads to infant developing an extreme distress called by developmental psychologists a 'separation anxiety'. The research by Robertson and Robertson (1989) into parent-child separations when either a primary caregiver or a child becomes hospitalized validates Bowlby's reasoning. This idea of attachment as innate adaptation mechanism is also supported by Harlow's (1958) research on primates into maternal deprivation.
In addition he suggested the idea of monotropy, which is the suggestion that infants tend to direct attachment behaviours towards a single attachment figure, and that there is one special bond and this is typically between a mother and its child. The attachment being two ways is very important, and Bowlby believed that both parties should find satisfaction and enjoyment from the relationship. He suggested that babies are born programmed to behave in ways that will make attachments easier to form, for example they will display behaviour that encourages attention from adults, these include smiling and cooing etc. These are known as social releasers because the point of
He proposed a theory of continuation; individuals who are securely attached during infancy develop to be socially and emotionally competent in the future, on the other hand, insecurely attached children have more social and emotional difficulties later on in childhood and adulthood. The reason behind this is because the mother’s behaviour creates an internal working model of relationships that in effect leads the infants to expect the same in later relationships. According to Bowlby, children have an innate determination to become attached to a caregiver because it has long-term benefits as does Imprinting. This is because both attachment and imprinting ensures that a young child/animal stays close to a caregiver who can provide it with food, comfort and protection. In this way, attachment and imprinting are adaptive behaviours.
John Bowlby’s theory of Attachment John Bowlby is an evolutionary psychologist within the filed of developmental psychology. His theory provides an evolutionary perspective towards attachment combining Freud’s views on the importance of the maternal care (psychoanalytic approach) and the ethnologists’ views on imprinting. Bowlby’s theory suggested that attachment is an innate and adaptive process. An infant is genetically programmed in a way for survival and has been ascribed skills such as sucking, grasping, crying: known as “social releasers”. Bowlby believed that a mother has similar genetic coding that allows her to react instinctive to, and respond to her infants needs.
A number of studies have shown that adults are less likely to mate with individuals whom they were raised with. This shows that imprinting (or early attachment) is for the purpose of the infant to bond with its mother to make sure they sustain a short-term bond which is important for survival. So the infant can reproduce I the future, which is what evolution, is all about. If attachment did evolve, like Bowlby suggests (biological function), then we would expect attachment and caregiving behaviours to be universal. So there would be no cultural bias.