John Bowlby observed a number of children who had experienced early separations from their families, and this led to his first theory, ‘the maternal deprivation hypothesis (1951), he suggested that a young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with their mother (mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment, he proposed that children deprived of such a relationship might suffer permanent long-term emotional maladjustment. This research led to Bowlby’s more comprehensive theory of attachment, which focuses on why infants need to be attached to a caregiver and also how attachments are formed.
Bowlby (1969) proposed that millions of years of evolution had produced a behaviour that is essential to the survival chances of human infants. Humans are born helpless and totally dependent on the actions of a caregiver for food, warmth, shelter and safety for their wellbeing and survival. If babies did not behave in a way that made it more likely an adult would care for them, and if adults did not become attached to babies, then human infants would not survive to reproductive age. Therefore natural selection has passed on genes that lead to attachment forming behaviours.
Bowlby explains that attachment is innate; he suggests children have an innate drive to become attached to a caregiver because attachments have a long term benefit. This is evaluated in Lorenz’s experiment (1952) in his studies of imprinting in geese. Lorenz hatched two groups of geese eggs - one group stayed with their natural mother and the other group were hatched in an incubator. The first moving thing the incubator group saw when they hatched was Lorenz himself, and the geese immediately started to follow him around. When the incubator geese and natural mother geese were mixed together, they would quickly separate into the two original groups and follow either Lorenz or their natural mother. Imprinting of this nature in animals has a clear survival advantage as it keeps them close to their mother who would naturally protect them from predators and increase their chances of survival.
Bowlby’s theory suggests a sensitive period since attachment is innate, there is likely to be a limited window/critical period for a bond to form between the infant and the primary caregiver. Bowlby’s suggested the sensitive period would be in the second quarter of the first year of the infants life as they will be most sensitive to the development of attachment, this theory came from research that when the baby is in the womb there is a special time when the arms develop some forms of maternal illness during this period may prevent this from happening which is seen to be the critical period. After a few months pass it becomes increasingly difficult to form a bond of infant and caregiver attachment, then the theory continues that if the relationship does not appear to be there the infant will struggle to form attachment later in life. Rutter et al (1988). Romanian orphans form attachments to adopted parents in the first year of their life, older children form attachments more slowly, but are still able to form them. Therefore there is probably a sensitive period for attachment rather than a critical period. Hazan Shaver created a love quiz which was to test adult’s romantic attachments and to see if they were linked with infant attachments, there findings were that securely attached infants tended to have secure romantic attachments, they based the quiz on Ainsworth et al (1978) theory called the ‘strange situation’ which was categorised into four categories which are: secure attachment, insecure-avoidant and insecure-resistant and insecure-disorganised. This shows what peoples attachments were when infants and how that attachment affects later attachments in life.
Attachments form as monotropy and hierarchy, Bowlby believes we have more than one attachment but one attachment has a