What factors will influence whether a child’s first attachments are secure or insecure? Attachment is an emotional bond or connection between two or more people; often described as an inborn biological need which is most commonly apparent in a mother-child relationship. Bowlby (1953) suggested attachment was thought of as a survival principle; therefore if a bond is not formed in the early stages of a child’s life then psychological problems and mental issues could possibly occur later on in adolescence and adulthood. Attachment is believed to help with development later on in life; social, emotional and cognitive factors. Whether a child attaches securely or insecurely depends often on factors concerned with the mother or caregiver. Bowlby (1973) was the first to discover the main aim of attachment theory. The mother/caregiver has to be responsive to the child’s needs such as warmth, food and protection. The infant will then realise the mother/caregiver is reliable and can explore the world, returning when needed. If the mother/caregiver was not vacant when the child returned or the needs of the child were not met such as the child not getting enough food or being cold, then it is likely for the child to develop insecure attachment towards the mother/caregiver rather than a secure one. Following on from Bowlby, Ainsworth (1970) discovered the ‘strange situation procedure’ that observed and assessed children’s attachments to their mother/caregiver; advancing from Bowlby’s theory as it looked more at individual differences. The strange situation involved an infant being placed in a room with the availability of toys to play with for 20 minutes. The mother/caregiver to the infant and a total stranger would enter and exit the room frequently in this period of time. Ainsworth came up with four behaviours that had to be observed to be able to identify how children were attached to their caregivers: 1. Secure base (amount of exploration the child engages in – playing with toys) 2. Separation protest (the child's response to the exiting of the mother/caregiver) 3. Effects of anxiety (the response to being left with only the stranger) 4. Anxiety reduction (the child's reunion behaviour with the mother/caregiver) During the strange situation the child’s behaviour and responses would be observed and an assessment of their attachment would be made. Ainsworth came up with three possible attachment groups a child could fall within; secure attachment, anxious-resistant insecure attachment and anxious-avoidant insecure attachment. A fourth, disorganised/disorientated insecure attachment was later developed by Main and Solomon (1990) (cited in Lyons-Ruth, 1996).
A child who is securely attached explores by themselves while the caregiver is present and is visibly upset when the mother/caregiver leaves but also happy when they return. The child engages with strangers but only when the mother/caregiver is in the room. A child that is attached in this way is a result of the mother/caregiver fulfilling the child’s every need and giving them their total undivided attention. An anxious-resistant attached child is likely to show signs of anxiety towards exploration and strangers. The child can show these signs even when the mother/caregiver is present in the room and becomes extremely distressed when the mother/caregiver leaves. When they return, the child seeks to remain close to them but is also resistant to attention that is given. The thought is that the child is punishing the mother/caregiver for leaving them in the first place. A child that is attached in this way is a result of the caregiver ignoring the child’s needs and not given them their full attention when the child requires it. A child with an anxious-avoidant attachment shows little emotion when the mother/caregiver leaves or returns and often ignores them. The child may also attempt to avoid their mother/caregiver when they try to show affection. The child shows...
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