Bowlby's Evolutionary Theory

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07/09/12
Bowlby’s Evolutionary Theory
“Babies’ smiles are powerful things, leaving mothers spellbound and enslaved. Who can doubt that the baby who most readily rewards his mother with a smile is the one who is best loved and best cared for?” – Bowlby, 1957. John Bowlby was a psychoanalyst (like Freud) and believed that mental health and behavioral problems could be attributed to early childhood. Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive. Bowlby believed that attachment behaviors are instinctive and will be activated by any conditions that seem to threaten the achievement of proximity, such as separation, insecurity and fear. Bowlby (1969, 1988) also postulated that the fear of strangers represents an important survival mechanism, built in by nature. Babies are born with the tendency to display certain innate behaviors (called social releasers) which help ensure proximity and contact with the mother or mother figure (e.g. crying, smiling, crawling, etc.) – these are species-specific behaviors. These attachment behaviors initially function like fixed action patterns and all share the same function. The infant produces innate ‘social releaser’ behaviors such as crying and smiling that stimulate caregiving from adults. The determinant of attachment is not food but care and responsiveness. Bowlby suggested that a child would initially form only one attachment and that the attachment figure acted as a secure base for exploring the world. The attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships so disrupting it can have severe consequences. Main Points of Bowlby’s Attachment Theory

A child has an innate need to attach to one main attachment figure (i.e. monotropy). Although Bowlby did not rule out the possibility of other attachment figures for a child, he did believe that there should be a...
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