Secure and Insecure Attachment
We discover who we are through having intimate relationships with others. We learn how others feel about life and find out how to accept our differences. The emotional security and warmth derived from an initial close relationship with a loving parent provides us with a "home base" from which we can venture to take the risks that are inevitably part of a life of joy and accomplishment. In short, close, psychologically intimate relationships between babies and their caregivers are central to human life. The theory of attachment is about these relationships; how they are formed, what happens during the first intimate relationship with the nurturing parent, and what the consequences are for later development.
Attachment is a vital process in human ontogeny, the development of an individual from a fertilized ovum to maturity, as contrasted with the development of a group or species (phylogeny) Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999,by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.). “Not only because it enhances the likely hood of several in infancy but also because it optimizes adaptive personality development across the life span”, (Bowlby  1982, 1977a, 1977b).
A satisfying close relationship with a nurturing caregiver -- a secure attachment -- provides the base of operations from which a toddler can venture forth into independent activity. Throughout the life span, one continues to feel the rival tugs of closeness and autonomy. If we begin life with an experience of successful closeness, we are not only better able to create closeness in our relationships with friends and partners, but we are also more equipped to take the risks involved in having a sphere of separateness for ourselves.
John Bowlby, the main theorist in the attachment literature, identifies the close attachment relationship between responsive caregiver and dependent infant as an adaptation needed for the infant's survival. The emotionally charged connection between caregiver and child ensures the two will remain near each other physically, at least while the child is an infant. At the same time, the security of this very closeness creates the courage the child needs to venture forth away from the close involvement she maintained earlier with the caregiver. This fascinating paradox -- between creating a close intimate connection and moving away from dependence on that connection -- is the heart of attachment theory.
The attachment we experience in our first close relationship, usually the mother-infant relationship, forms the foundation for much that happens subsequently. We form a mental representation of our experience of being loved and cared for in an intimate context. Before this image is formed, we must be physically near the caregiver to retain the feeling of security required to support play and independence. After the mental image is formed, we create a portable reminder of the closeness, love, and security we enjoyed. Thus, we can separate from the caregiver more often and for longer periods. As adults, what remains with us from our earliest attachment is a system of beliefs, images, and emotions about ourselves in loving relationships. In an ideal scenario, these cognitions denote us as loved and loving. Having experienced an ideal love at least once, we approach new human connections with faith in love's possibility.
However, early relationships between caregivers and babies are not always ideal. The theory of attachment addresses how a relationship of poor quality -- an insecure attachment -- emerges from interaction that is not responsive to the baby's needs. The theory explores consequences of such an insecure attachment for the beginnings of self-awareness and the ability to be independent. In addition, recent work takes the process forward into adulthood and the formation of romantic...