Attachment Theory: a Bond for Specific Others

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Attachment Theory: A Bond for Specific Others

Attachment theory is the joint work of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth that examine a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure. John Bowlby devoted extensive research to the concept of attachment and describes it as a connectedness between individuals that is psychologically lasting and through Mary Ainsworth’s innovative methodology not only has she made it possible to test some of Bowlby’s ideas empirically but has also helped expand the theory itself. This paper will examine the theory of Bowlby’s and Ainsworth theory of attachment and conclude with some of the criticisms that this theory faces.

Attachment Theory: A Bond for Specific Others
As human beings we are born into life with an innate need to feel connected to those that surround us. John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth have known this need for a sense of psychological lasting connectedness as attachment theory. Attachment theory is a theory, or group of theories, about the psychological tendency to seek closeness to another person, to feel secure when that person is present, and to feel anxious when that person is absent. In Theories of Development by William Crain it is proposed that attachment theory developed through evolution as it is stated that:

Throughout most of human history, humans probably moved about in small groups, searching for food, and often risking attack by large predators. When threatened, humans, like other primate groups, probably cooperated to drive off predators and protect the sick and young. To gain this protection, children needed to stay close to adults…Thus children must have evolved attachment behaviors-gestures and signals that promote and maintain proximity to caretakers (2005).

Drawing on concepts from ethology, cybernetics, information processing, developmental psychology, and psychoanalysts, John Bowlby formulated the basic tenets of the theory. He revolutionized psychological thinking about a child’s ties to the mother and its disruption through separation, deprivation, and bereavement. Mary Ainsworth’s innovative methodology not only made it possible to test some of Bowlby’s ideas empirically but also helped expand the theory. Ainsworth contributed the concept of the attachment figure as a secure base from which an infant can explore the world (Engler, 2006). Psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Engler, 2006). Attachment theory is a means of survival. Bowlby states "the propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals [is] a basic component of human nature" (Engler, 2006). Within attachment theory, infant behavior associated with attachment is primarily a process of proximity seeking to an identified attachment figure in stressful situations, for the purpose of survival (Crain, 2005). Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with the infant, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about six months to two years of age (Engler, 2006). During the later part of this period, children begin to use attachment figures as secure bases in which they are able to explore from and return to. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of attachment which in turn lead to internal working models which will guide the individual's feelings, thoughts, and expectations in later relationships (Engler, 2006). All in all attachment theory can be summed up by this statement “[attachment theory is an] observation of how a very young child behaves towards his mother…When removed from the mother by strangers, young children respond usually with great intensity; and after reunion with her, anxiety or else unusual detachment" (Lee, 2003). The central theme...
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