John Bowlby's Theory of Attachment: Do Children Suffer Psychological Damage Due to Separation?

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What was John Bowlby's Theory of attachment and do children always suffer psychological damage as a result of separation?

In this essay I am going to describe John Bowlby's theory of attachment and provide evidence to support and refute his theory, also providing evidence to support or deny the claim that children always suffer psychological damage as a result of separation. John Bowlby is widely credited as the father of attachment theory due to his extensive research into the concept of attachment. He revolutionized our thinking about a child's bond to its mother and the emotional and social impact created as a result of separation, deprivation and bereavement describing his theory as "a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby 1969) pg 194. Believing that early childhood experiences have an important influence on development and behaviours later in life His theory was based on psychological, evolutionary and ethological ideas to explain our ability to form special emotional relationships and exchange comfort, care and pleasure. His theory argued that a child is born innate need to attach to one main figure usually the mother, although he agreed with Rutters argument that multiple attachments can be formed. Bowlby used monotropy to describe this primary bond, it is said to be the first to appear, unique, strongest and far more important than any other and forms the basis for successful future relationships, describing it as "a mother's love in infancy is as important for mental health as vitamins and proteins are for physical health" (Bowlby 1951). He claims that we are all born biologically pre programmed to form an instinctive bond with our mother that has progressed through evolution to maintain our survival activating attachment behaviours such as crying and clinging to remain close and safe from threat and danger. However Schaffer and Emerson (1964) found that on a study of 60 babies from a working class background in Glasgow formed different attachments at different ages. They measured the strength of attachment by (1) Separation anxiety: how distressed the child became when separated from the main caregiver and (2) Stranger anxiety: distress shown when the child was left alone with an unfamiliar person and found that at 0-6 weeks (Asocial) attachments can be made with anyone and attention seeking behaviours such as crying and smiling is not directed at anyone in particular. At 6 weeks-7 months (Indiscriminate attachments) a greater response is shown to familiar faces but will still seek and receive attention from anyone. At 7-11 months (specific attachments) the child becomes wary of strangers and will show distress when separated from the primary caregiver. Although Carpenter (1975) found evidence to support Bowlby's theory in that babies only a few days old will stare at their mother for longer. Mothers are also thought to be genetically imprinted to respond to there baby as a caregiver, keeping them in close proximity, this enables a two way interaction expressed though social releasers, such as smiling, gazing and grasping. A report by Baylor College of Medicine used event related fMRI a technique that shows which parts of the brain are activated in response to certain events, to show that a mothers brain is activated when looking at a picture of her smiling baby but not when looking at someone else's child. Dr Lane Strathearn and his colleagues asked 28 first time mothers with babies aged 5 to 10 months to look at photos of their own babies and other infants, they found that key areas of the brain associated with reward only lit up during the scan when shown pictures of their own babies faces Strathearn said "Understanding how a mother responds uniquely to her own infant, when smiling or crying, may be the first step in understanding the neural basis of mother-infant attachment," (Strethearn et al. 2008), Bowlby also believed that this bond had a critical period in which...
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