Compare and Contrast the Work of Harry Harlow and Mary Anisworth on Understanding Attachment

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Compare and Contrast the work of Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth on understanding attachment ‘Attachment’ is a lasting secure and positive feeling that bonds one person to another, one of the strongest forms of attachment is thought to develop between a mother and child. Many psychologist, sociologist, physicians and psychoanalysts have sought to explore the fundamental nature of attachment and how it had evolved. Within this essay I shall examine •The origins of attachment

Psychologist who seek to measure it
The methodology used & how it has consequently helped us understand attachment So how does attachment develop between a mother and child?
Psychoanalytical theorists such as Sigmund Freud & J.B Watson stated that ‘attachment’ was formed with a primary caregiver because they satisfy are basic biological needs, thus as babies we learn to love our mother or career as it is the person who feeds us, provides warmth and alleviates discomfort by changing our nappies or burping us (Custance 2010). John Bowlby (1907-1990) a British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst labelled this theory as ‘cupboard love’, (Holmes 1993). Bowlby, notable for his pioneering work in the ‘attachment theory’ did not believe that ‘cupboard love’ was the basis for attachment he suggested that “infants process inbuilt innate tendencies that lead to the forge of emotionally powerful ties to stimuli i.e. mothers with certain properties“(Bowlby 1970), Furthermore that attachment has formulated through ethology & behavioural tendencies that are present from birth. These ideas were radical for the time (1940’s/50’s) and people were unconvinced, as Bowlby’s claims lacked scientific evidence. In contrast to this, behaviourist would argue that infants do not immediately value their caregiver, indeed they learn to value them for example, a mother breast feeding a baby would habitually be associated with the primary reinforces of food and comfort thus, constituting a conditional stimulus (Custance 2010). Two psychologists who were directly and indirectly influenced by theorists such as Sigmund Freud was Harry Harlow (1905-1981) and Mary Ainsworth (1913-1999). They both sought to investigate & measure ‘attachment’ between a mother and infant, Harlow using animals with in his research and Ainsworth using infants. Harry Harlow was motivated by scientist such as Bowlby (1970) and Konrad Lorenz (1952) and their evolutionary theory & ethological research; Lorenz believed that ‘attachment’ evolved through innate predispositions and imprinting, a learning system that occurs after birth and involves developing an attachment to a specific individual or object (Lorenz & Kickert 1981; Hess, 1958). Influenced by their research Harlow set about his own investigations on attachment, using Rhesus Monkeys. He sought to investigate whether infants bond with their mother because of ‘cupboard love’ or as Bowlby suggested an “inbuilt tendency to become attached to stimuli that process certain properties” (Bowlby 1979). All Harlow’s experiments involved removing Rhesus monkeys from their mothers at birth, In one of his early experiments he noticed that the infants became increasing distressed when sanitary pads used to line the cages were removed during daily cleaning. Harlow suspected that the infant’s affection for the pads was primarily based upon ‘contact comfort’ (Custance 2010) he embarked on further experiments to investigate this idea further. He separated two groups of infant monkeys from their mothers and placed them with surrogate’s mothers, one a terry cloth mother who provided no food while the other wire mother did, in the form of an attached baby bottle containing milk. In the second group the terry cloth mother provided food whiles the wire mother did not.

Figure (a) Wire and cloth mother surrogates
Harry F. Harlow The Nature of love (1958)

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