Attachment Theory and the Mother-Infant Relationship Essay Example
In the first third of our course we studied the intense, complex relationship a mother has with her offspring. In order to fully understand this bond, three concepts must be understood: the emotional nature, the adaptive strategy, as well as the relationship's pros and cons. However, for the purpose of this paper, I will be focusing on the mother-infant relationship as an adaptive strategy primates developed, with emphasis on attachment theory. The root of the mother-infant relationship as well as a child's development can be linked to John Bowlby's theory of attachment. Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, developed the theory after running a study in which he attempted to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who had been separated from their parents. Upon separation, Bowlby observed the lengths to which infants would go in order to prevent separation and later, to reunite with their parent. The observed behaviors, which he called attachment behaviors, included crying, clinging, and desperately searching for the parent. More specifically, attachment behaviors can be defined as "behaviors which promote proximity or contact" (Ainsworth, 50). At the time of the study, his peers believed the infants' "expressions were manifestations of immature defense mechanisms that were operating to repress emotional pain," but Bowlby drew a parallel between the infants' expressions and those of other mammalian species, specifically primates and further concluded that these behaviors must serve an evolutionary function (Fraley, 1).
When it comes to bearing helpless offspring, humans lie on the extreme fringes of the mammalian spectrum. Bowlby theorized that the overwhelming helplessness an infant is confronted with upon separation could cause the infant to experience anguishing fear and pain beyond fear, such as depression. Bowlby believed the attachment system essentially asks the following question: "Is the attachment figure nearby, accessible, and