Attachment Theory Essay

Submitted By arawls
Words: 1076
Pages: 5

Attachment Theory

Attachment can be defined as a strong affectionate bond that we have with special people in our lives that leads us to feel pleasure when we interact with them. These significant individuals are a source of inspiration and we rely heavily on them especially in times of stress (Berk, 2007). An emotional bond or attachment is critical to our development as human beings and individuals. Several theories have been developed regarding attachment and it continues to be a main topic for theoretical debate. Freud first suggested that the infant’s emotional tie to the mother is the foundation for all later relationships (Berk, 2007). Later research would suggest that not only is the initially bond important in an individual’s development, but a continued relationship plays a more essential role. Today, ethological theory of attachment, which recognizes the infant’s emotional tie to the caregivers as an evolved response that promotes survival, is the most widely accepted view (Berk, 2007). This theory was first applied by John Bowlby in 1969 when he studied the bond between infants and their caregivers. Bowlby’s research would enable us to trace the development of attachment during the first two years of life. Based on Bowlby’s finding we can then determine if attachment is influenced by genetics or the environment. John Bowlby was working as a psychiatrist in a Child Guidance Clinic in London where he was responsible for the treatment of numerous emotional disturbed children. This experience led Bowlby to consider the importance of the child’s relationship with their mother in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development (McLeod, 2009). Bowlby continued to research the link between an infant and their mother, and how it affected later development. John Bowlby and James Robertson began observing the emotional distress that resulted from separating an infant from their mother. The research disproved the dominant behavioral theory of attachment, because the infants continued to display signs of separation anxiety even though they were being fed by other caregivers. Bowlby proposed that attachment can be understood within an evolutionary context in that the caregiver provides safety and security for the infant (McLeod, 2009). This attachment changes progressively as the infant develops a true affectionate bond with his caregivers within the first two years. The infant’s relationship with the parents begins as a set of innate signals that call the adult to the baby’s side (Berk, 2007). This attachment continues to develop in four phases throughout the first two years. The first phase of attachment is known as the preattachment phase and occurs from birth to 6 weeks of age. During the preattachment phase, the infant utilizes crying, babbling, smiling and reaching as a means of social release in order to create and maintain proximity with caregivers. At this stage, the infants have yet to formulate a strong emotional attachment with their mothers, so they do not discriminate among caregivers. The second phase is known as the attachment-in-the-making phase and it can be observed from 6 weeks to 6-8 months. Throughout this phase, infants begin to respond differently toward strangers and their familiar caregivers. At this point in the infants development an emotional bond of trust and security begins to form with the primary caregiver. The third phase is known as the clear-cut attachment phase. This phase typically occurs in 6 to 8 months and can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months. During the clear-cut attachment phase, children begin to display clinical signs associated with separation anxiety anytime the primary caregiver leaves. The children begin to utilize the safety and security of their primary caregivers as a secure base from which to explore (Berk, 2007). It is at this phase where children begin to become less friendly to others and treat strangers with a heightened sense of caution. As the