Attachment Theory

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According to Feldman (2008), the emotional bond that develops between a child and a certain individual is referred to as attachment. In nonhumans, this process begins in the first days of life with “imprinting,” which is essentially the infant’s readiness to learn (Lorenz, 1957, as cited in Feldman, 2008, p.89). The bond is facilitated by mother-child physical contact during imprinting. A similar phenomenon is observed between human mothers and their newborns, which is why mother’s are strongly encouraged to hold and nurse (or bottle-feed) their children as soon as possible after birth. The feeding is important, but also important for social-emotional health is the satisfying of the need for that sense of connection and safety gained from holding the infant with gentle firmness against the bosom.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs asserts that biological needs (i.e. food, water, etc.) are primary needs, while safety is secondary (Maslow, 2005). According to Bowlby (1951, as cited in Feldman, 2008, p. 191), attachment is based on a need for safety and security. So, impulsively, it would seem that the provision of physiological needs has little to do with the developing emotional bonds (attachment). However, one cold argue that biological needs fall under the term “safety and security.” If so, Bowlby’s assertion holds more truth: “As they develop, infants come to learn that their safety is best provided by a particular individual.” This is reiterated in Pittman, et al (2011), which indicates that the infant develops a sense of “having a secure base for exploration, nurturance, and succorance, and of having confidence in the adequacy and predictability of nurturance and support.” The infant comes to learn that the caregiver can be trusted to provide what he or she needs. This is similar to Erikson’s first psychosocial stage of crisis – Trust versus Mistrust.

Erikson argued that during the first 18-months of life (about the same age as the children used in the...
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