An attachment refers to ‘a close two-way emotional relationship between two people. In Child Psychology this focus is on the main care-giver most commonly (but not exclusively) our mothers.’ According to Bowlby, children develop an attachment to one main caregiver which is qualitatively different than any others e.g. warm and continuous relationship with mother. This attachment has to occur within the sensitive period (6-24 months) or there could be severe development difficulties and consequences later in life. This first attachment helps us to form our Internal Working Model which is a template for all future relationships. As well as this, Bowlby suggests that attachment is innate and is pre-programmed within the body; nature not nurture. Attachment is seen as an evolutionary theory as it is seen as a necessary mechanism for survival and is passed genetically. Bowlby also states that deprivation or loss of attachment could affect later development.
Bowlbys own study, 44 juvenile thieves, supports his theory as he found that deprived boys were more likely to be delinquent and lack empathy. He found that of the 17 who had experienced separation from their mother, 14 showed no remorse for any of their behaviour. Bowlby diagnosed them with ‘Affectionless Psychopathy’ which is an inability to care for the consequences of their behaviour upon others. Rutter studies large numbers of boys (aged 9-12) in London and the isle of white who had been separated from their mother during early childhood and he found that the majority did not become delinquent. However, those who had a stressful separation e.g. prison or family breakdown – were delinquent. This supports Bowlbys theory that deprivation could affect later development. Bowlbys theory has been applied to encourage women to stay at home after pregnancy. Lorrenz study on the imprinting of geese supports Bowlbys ‘sensitive period’ as it occurred between 12 and 17