Attachment Theory and Child

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EXAMINE ATTACHMENT IN CHILDHOOD AND its ROLE IN THE SUBSEQUENT FORMATION OF RELATIONSHIPS

An attachment is a two-way emotional bond in which people depend on each other for their sense of security. Although we forma attachments through out our lives, psychologists are particualry interested in the attachments formed between a child and his/her primary caregiver.1 This essay will examine the role of attachment in childhood and it’s subsequent formation of relationships.

Most babies of mammals exhibit the same patterns as human infants; they seek proximity to the mother and react with anxeity on seperation from her, which is the essense pf attachment behaviour. John bowlby believed that attachment was an innate pattern and it helped infants to survive. Bowlby had observed how baby monkeys reacted with distress on sepearation from their mother for a brief period. The mother and baby both called for each other. This shows that attachment is essential for survival however, it can be argued that research relating to animals cannot be generalised to humans.

Bowlby’s theory of attachment is that children have a biological need to attach to their main caregiver as attachment helps serve the purpose of survival. The emotional relationship provides the infant with a set of expectations about relationships which stays with the child throughout life; this is known as the internal working model, and is a pattern for relationships the child may have in the future. If the child experiences love and affection, he/she will come to see him/herself as worthy of love and attention. This is the child’s working model as Bowlby sees it. The working model will determine the child’s relationship with other people and the way the child sees him/herself in the future. On the other hand, if the child experiences neglect or rejectionthey may develop a working model that is based on denial rather than on reality. Such a working model may contribute negatively to the the mental health of the child and the quality of their relationships with others in the future.

Mary Ainsworth was a US psychologist who operationalised Bowlby’s concept so that it could be tested empirically. She devised an experimental procedure called the stange situation, which resulted in the classificatin of attachment patterns. In the strange situation an observer shows the caregiver and child into a room and then leaves. The caregiver watches the child play and a stranger soon enters the room. The stranger sits silently at first then talks with the caregiver and then tries to interact with the child. The caregiver leaves the room. This is he first seperation between the caregiver and the child. While the caregiver is absent the stranger continues trying to interact with the child. The caregiver returns and is reunited withnthe child. The stranger then leaves the room and the caregiver follows leaving the child alone. This is the second seperation. The stranger enters the room and once again tries to interact with the child. The caregiver returns for a second reunion and the stranger leaves. The findings resulted in the classification of three attachment types discussed below.

Attachment type A, avoidant, is when the child shows apparent indifference when the caregiver leaves the room, and avoids contact when the caregiver returns. The child is apparently not afraid of strangers. Mothers of type A children tend to be insensitive and do not seem interested in their child’s play. Attachment type B, securely attached, is when the child is upset when the caregiver leaves and is happy to see the caregiver return. The child is easily comforted by the caregiver. The mothers of type B children are very intersted in their child’s play and actively support and communicate with the child during play. Attachment type C, ambivalent is when the child is very upset when the caregiver leaves the room, however, the caregiver finds it difficult to sooth the...
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