Attachment Theory: Children's Attachment to a Caregivers

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Securely attached children tend to have caregivers who are responsive to their needs. Image by Jeff Osborne
What is Attachment?
Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. Psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. According to Bowlby, attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child's chances of survival. The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their infant's needs establish a sense of security in their children. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world. The Components of Attachment

There are four key components of attachment:
* Safe Haven: When the child feel threatened or afraid, he or she can return to the caregiver for comfort and soothing.

* Secure Base: The caregiver provides a secure and dependable base for the child to explore the world.

* Proximity Maintenance: The child strives to stay near the caregiver, thus keeping the child safe.

* Separation Distress: When separated from the caregiver, the child will become upset and distressed. Ainsworth's "Strange Situation"
In her 1970's research, psychologist Mary Ainsworth expanded greatly upon Bowlby's original work. Her groundbreaking "Strange Situation" study revealed the profound effects of attachment on behavior. In the study, researchers observed children between the ages of 12 and 18 months as they responded to a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mothers (Ainsworth, 1978). Based upon the responses the researchers observed, Ainsworth described three major styles of attachment: secure attachment,...
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