Personality development of children: Who Matters More?
Judith Harris and John Bowlby
The impact of parents on child development has been a major matter among developmental psychologists who have been trying to find a direct link between parental activities and the personality development of children. The nature vs. nurture debate remains vital and keeps the world of developmental and clinical psychology polarized for a long time now (Encyclopedia.com). There are various factors that affect child development. “What happens during the prenatal period and the earliest months”, says Hutchinson (2008) “sets the stage for the journey through childhood, adolescence and adulthood”. When talking about child development, one needs to take into consideration four types of development: physical, cognitive, emotional and social (Hutchinson, 2008). While all four are important, emotional development seems to be raising the most deliberation. One of the components of child emotional development is attachment – the ability to form emotional bonds with others. Scholars agree that attachment is one of the most important aspects of child development, as it sets the groundwork for emotional development and subsequent social functioning (Hutchinson, 2008). Attachment relationships and their vast influence on people’s behaviors in all stages of their life cycles are essential to the research of developmental and clinical psychology (Encyclopedia.com). The attachment theory was developed by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, and focused on the infant-parent relationship and the impact of that relationship in the course of the life span of the child. The fundamental function of attachment theory is the protection of the child. Attachment between mother and the child guarantees that the child is sheltered from any harmful factors of his/her environment (Hutchinson, 2008). Bowlby theorized four stages of attachment: preattachment, attachment in the making, clear-cut attachment and goal-corrected attachment. He believed that attachment is an evolving process and it becomes child’s individual “internal working model” for future relationships. Bowlby contended that these internal working models – that guide individual’s behavior, expectations and interpretations – are formed from the individual’s earliest experiences The child initiates interaction with mother by smiling, reaching, crying, looking, etc, to which the mother responds, creating the bond of attachment. The child starts the process, but the mother’s response determines the strength of that bond and profoundly influences the progress of the child’s internal working models (Hutchinson, 2008). Mothers who are sensitive, available and responsive to their infant’s needs give their child sense of a secure “home base”, from which the child “ventures” to explore his environment. Conversely, insensitive and unsupportive mothers fill the child with uncertainty (Encyclopedia.com). The main tenet of attachment theory is that a young child needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur properly. Even though infants are capable of developing attachments with others, Bowlby claimed, attachment to mother is stronger and more consistent because it is the earliest. What’s more, he argued, if the attachment figure is broken or disrupted during the initial two year period the child will suffer “irreversible long-term consequences of this maternal deprivation”. Although key concepts of attachment theory were integrated into existing models of behavioral therapy, some critics disagreed with the requirement for maternal love in order to function normally. Others questioned the effects of privation (no primary attachment figure) and deprivation (loss of the primary attachment figure) and the other forms of deprivation and understimulation that may affect children in institutions (Encyclopedia.com). One of the latest opponents of...
References: Debunking the “Nurture Assumption” www.pbs.org
Gladwell, M. (1998). Do Parents Matter? New Yorker, 54-66.
Harris J.R. (1998). The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New York, NY: Free Press.
Hutchinson, E. D. (2008). Dimensions of Human Behavior: The changing life course (3rd Ed.) Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publishing.
McMillen C. J. (1992). Attachment Theory And Clinical Social Work. Clinical Social Work Journal, 20 (2), 205-218.
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