The Study of the Attachment by Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth

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  • Topic: Attachment theory, Mary Ainsworth, John Bowlby
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The study of the Attachment by Harry Harlow and Mary Ainsworth

The word love brings us many meanings. But how do we learn to love? Is it something that we born with, like kind of pre-programmed behaviour or is it a something that we learn during our development? Do we bound to others because of something that we receive on exchange or the constant proximity forms the bound? The comprehension of what defines emotional attachments or the emotional bounding to others, either in humans or other species, proofs that such emotions are not only a compound of feelings but tools that nature used in order to make us to evolve and preserve life flourishing (Custance, Deborah 2012). Anomalies on the individual process of attachment could causes further serious damage on the development and vice-versa. It leaded psychologist to find answers on how it occurs. What is attachment and how it happens? What is the spectrum of normality? Those questions were the challenge faced by two historical contributions to this comprehension.

On The development of theories of attachment there are some routes that were key important influencing and establishing the ground of studies. The influence of the Ethology and the principle of Imprinting (originally described by Douglas Spalding in the 19th century, (Spalding, D. A. 1873) and developed later by Konrad Lorenz. (Lorenz KZ 1937) The “Imprinting”, is the process or kind of phase-sensitive learning that occurs at after born age or a particular life stage, that is rapid and apparently independent of the consequences of behaviour, where animals learn to follow their caregivers, “Imprinting” is the factor that creates a bound between them. In a very similar direction we found a important contribution by John Bowlby research, proposition that human infants possess inbuilt or innate tendencies to form emotionally and bound to caregivers (Bowlby, 1953).

On the Psychoanalysis area, theorists such Ana Freud and Dorothy Burlingham suggested that we love who fulfil our basic biologic needs. Motivation for attachment derives from gratification of hunger and libidinal drives (Freud A, Burlingham DT 1943). Later Bowlby called these theories “cupboard love” (Holmes J 1993).

The Behaviourism and its theories of love were based on the idea that the earliest attachment between a mother and child was merely a means for the child to obtain food, relieve thirst, and avoid pain (Cherry, Kendra. 2011). Behaviourism also said that the infant’s mother constitutes a conditional stimulus, as mother is associated with the primary reinforces of food and comfort (Gewirtz N 1969). Although Harry Harlow and Marry Ainsworth had different backgrounds on how to approach the challenger of their studies, both were very successful and important on their contribution. Harry Harlow came from a behaviourism influence that was the dominant school on psychology during the first half of the 20th century. The main approach to experiments was in base of observable and measurable behaviours (Gewirtz JL, Pelaez-Nogueras M 1991). Harlow started his studies at animal’s intelligence and consequently into monkey’s attachment when he noticed how an orphan monkey got attached to a sanitary pad on its cage. He was compelled to check the “cupboard” theory in contrast with the tactile stimuli, soft and comfort attachment (Custance, Deborah 2012). Mary Ainsworth background was at the ethologic approach, Ainsworth joined John Bowlby’s research group at the Tavistock Clinic in London in 1950. Because she was influenced by Freud and psychoanalysis, at the very begin she wasn’t agreed with Bowbys approach. (Ainsworth, personal communication in Bretherton, 1992) (Ainsworth 1996). Later in 1953 as she moved to Uganda for two years, she used that opportunity to study the relationships between mother and child among families. It sparks her interest to develop her studies at attachment.

Those influences on both psychologists brought over their...
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