Attachment in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Compared to Neurotypical Children

Topics: Attachment theory, Autism, Autism spectrum Pages: 5 (1823 words) Published: April 1, 2013
Using evidence from empirical studies, critically evaluate the claim that attachment in young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders is qualitatively different to that of neurotypical children Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is signified by a triad of impairments in imagination, communication and social interaction; all of which are thought to affect the ability to form relationships (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Original research into the area claimed that ASD results from ‘cold’ parenting however that work has since been discredited (Bettelheim 1967, Seifert 1990). Despite a better understanding of the biological factors involved in autism, the causes still escape researchers. In 2006 autism was found to affect 1% of children with a boy to girl ratio of 3:1, marginally more than found in the last few decades (however this thought to be due to better advances in diagnosis rather than an actual increase). Often, but not always, an autistic child will not show any obvious love or affection to caregivers displayed through not wanting to be picked up and not wanting to look in the eyes of those who care for them (Holloway 1981). As well as indications of Autism, it could be suggested that the aforementioned behaviours denote a child lacking an affectionate bond with their mother. This bond is alternatively described as attachment, an evolved survival technique that forms the basis for how all future relationships are formed (Bowlby 1958, Freud 1949). Attachment in typical children is defined under four categories; secure, avoidant, resistant and disorganised (Ainsworth 1963). Categorisation of a child in terms of their attachment is generally decided through an experiment known as the Strange Situation Paradigm (SSP). This experiment devised by Mary Ainsworth (1963) consists of an infant being observed in the presence of their mother and a stranger in several different situations. The critical behavioural analysis occurs when the infant is left on their own and then once again when they are reunited with their mother. Around 65% of children belong in the secure attachment category which is the healthiest form of attachment. It comprises of a child showing signs of distress when parted from their mother, yet being easily soothed when the mother returns. A replication of the SSP has shown that autistic children were rated as less secure when compared with other clinical and normal non clinical children with a significantly higher amount being put into the disorganised category (35% of autistic compared to 15% of typical children) (Rutgers, Ijzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, Swinkels, van Daalen, Dietz, Naber, Buitelaar & van Engeland 2007). This denotes the child as being very insecure with contradictory behaviours on reunion that suggest the child has an insecure attachment to their mother. The question remains whether children with autism have less secure attachments than typical children or whether attachment in autistic children should be categorised in completely different ways. Despite Rutgers et al (2007) finding a high amount of autistic children belonging to the disorganised category, his research methods could be deemed questionable and potentially invalid. The behaviours that define a disorganised child such as lack of eye contact, resistance to being held and irrational emotive behaviour are key manifestations in autism. Thus it could be deemed the SSP is not measuring attachment in the autistic child but is just confirming their impairment. Additional research into autistic infant attachment by Capps, Kasari, Yirmiya & Sigman (1993) using the SSP resulted in all 15 infants being assigned to the disorganised category. However after criticism on the nature of categorisation with elements being too similar to key symptoms of autism Capps et al reanalysed the results excluding stereotypes. It was found that only 3 of the 15 children truly had disorganised attachments. This would suggest that by...

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