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Bowlbys Attachment Theory

Bowlbys Attachment Theory


Aleigha Simerly
EDUC121-0AJ
Dr. Julie Bilz
December 6,2014

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

Attachment is described as a deep and enduring bond that


connects one person to another across time and space (McLeod 2009).
Most of the time, a babys mother is the primary caregiver; some
situations may vary who the primary caregiver may be. The ethological
theory of attachment is defined as the infants emotional tie to the
caregiver as an evolved response promotes survival (Berk 2012). John
Bowlby was one of the first people who applied the theory of
attachment between the infant and caregiver bond. There have been
implications for the childs feelings of security and capacity to form
trusting relationships due to this theory (Berk 2012). John Bowlby and
Mary Ainsworth worked together to create the complete theory;
Ainsworth added that the attachment figure was the secure base for
the infant to explore the world (Bretherton 1992). Saul McLeod (2009)
states: Bowlby proposed that attachment can be understood within an
evolutionary context in that the caregiver provides safety and security
for the infant; attachment is adaptive as it enhances the infants
chance of survival. When looking at Bowlbys theory more in depth, we
discuss the phases that each child goes through.
According to Bowlby, the relationship between a mother and
infant begins by the parent being by the babys side; over time, a more
affectionate bond is formed s well as a loving, sensitive care (Berk
2012). Preattachment, attachment in the making, clear-cut

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

attachment, and formation of a reciprocal relationship are the four


phases that are created in the attachment process (Berk 2012). The
pre-attachment phase begins when an infant is born until they are six
weeks old; during this phase, the signals help the infant become taken
care of by parents who comfort them. The signals include: smiling,
crying, looking into the parents eyes, and grasping objects. The baby
may recognize their mothers voice along with smell and voice; the
baby will not be completely attached to the mother throughout this
phase. During the attachment in the making phase, a child is between
six weeks and six to eight months. Children tend to respond to their
regular caregiver differently than they would a stranger. The infant will
begin to trust their caregiver when they are signaled. For example,
when Carson cries because he is hungry, his mom will pick him up and
he will begin to calm down. In this example, he has more trust in his
mom. In the clear-cut attachment phase, the ages range from six to
eight months to eighteen months to two years. Attachment to the
caregiver is shown; separation anxiety is very common during this
stage. Separation anxiety is known as an infant becoming upset when
their trusted caregiver leaves. This anxiety varies upon childs situation
so it doesnt happen to all children. During the final phase, the
formation of a reciprocal relationship, the child is between the age of
eighteen months to two years and on. In this phase, the child is better
understanding of the parent coming and going; when you tell him, you

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

are going to work or school or visiting grandpa in the hospital, he


doesnt suffer from as much separation anxiety (Berk 2012). These
phases help create a relationship to where the parent can be a secure
person to the child to be close to. This shows us how an internal
working model, which is a set of expectations about the availability of
attachment figures, their likelihood of support during times of stress,
and the selfs interaction with those figures (Berk 2012). This model
helps create the childs personality as well as their future close
relationships (Berk 2012).
While Bowlby studied the theory amongst Mary Ainsworth and
many other colleagues, he published his first ethological paper in 1953
(Bretherton 1992). Most of his colleagues were unconvinced that
ethology was relevant to a mother-child relationship (Bretherton 1992).
In his first paper The Nature of the Childs Tie to His Mother, he
explains the childs tie to the mother in which need satisfaction is seen
as primary and attachment as secondary (Bretherton 1992). Bowlby
took great plans to draw a clear distinction between the old social
learning theory concept of dependency and the new concept of
attachment, noting that attachment is no indicative of regression, but
rather perform a natural, healthy function even in adult life (Bretherton
1992). In his second paper, Separation Anxiety, traditional theory,
Bowlby claims, can explain neither the intense attachment of infants
and young children to a mother figure nor their dramatic responses to

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

separation (Bretherton 1992). Robertson worked alongside him with


these observations. He identified three phases of separation response:
protest (related to separation anxiety), despair (related to grief and
mourning), and denial or attachment (related to defence mechanisms,
especially regression)(Bretherton 1992). Bowlby mainted that infants
and children experience separation anxiety when a situation activates
both escape and attachment behavior but an attachment figure is not
available (Bretherton 1992). During this paper, Bowlby looked at
Freuds claims; excessive separation anxiety is due to adverse family
experiences- such as repeated threats of abandonment or rejection by
parents-or to a parents or siblings illness or death for which the child
feels responsible (Bretherton 1992). In his third paper Grief and
Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood, he questioned Anna Freuds
ideas stating the bereaved infants cannot mourn because of
insufficient ego development and therefore experience nothing more
than brief bouts of separation anxiety if an adequate substitute
caregiver is available (Bretherton 1992). Bowlby claimed that grief and
mourning processes in children and adults appear whenever
attachment behaviors are activated but the attachment figure
continues to be unavailable (Bretherton 1992). Also, he suggested that
an inability to form deep relationships with others may result when the
succession of substitutes is too frequent (Bretherton 1992). During
each of these papers, I explained them in a less detailed manor to

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

make sure to understand the concept of them. I did not fully go into
depth due to so many facts that could be accounted for.
Bretherton (1992) states:
Bowlbys major conclusion, grounded in the available empirical
evidence, was that to grow up mentally healthy, the infant and young
child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship
with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find
satisfaction and enjoyment.
With that quote being said, this is showing how important he believes
his findings of the attachment theory to be. Throughout this paper, I
explained Bowlbys attachment theory. The phases of attachment
included were pre-attachment, attachment in the making process,
clear-cut, and the formation of a reciprocal relationship. Also, Bowlby
wrote The Nature of the Childs Tie to His Mother, Separation
Anxiety, and Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood to
help better explain his findings.

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

References
Berk, L. (2012). Emotional and Social Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood. In
Infants,Children and Adolescents (Seventh ed., p. 264-279). New York:
Pearson.

Bretherton, I. (1992, January 1). The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and
Mary Ainsworth. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from
http://www.psychology.sunysb.edu/attachment/online/inge_origins.pdf

Bowlbys Attachment Theory


McLeod, S. (2009, January 1). Attachment Theory. Retrieved November 15, 2014, from
http://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html.

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

Bowlbys Attachment Theory

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