One of the most studied topics in today’s psychology is the attachment theory whose common references are from attachment models by Bowlby and Ainsworth. Since its introduction, the concept has developed to become one of the most significant theoretical schemes for understanding the socio-emotional development of children at an early stage. In addition, the theory is also developing into one of the most prominent models that guide parent-child relationships. Some of the key areas in these relationships that are guided by attachment theory include child welfare, parenting programs, daycare, head start programs, schools, and hospitals. Furthermore, attachment theory plays a crucial role as a concept that informs social work practice, especially with Aboriginal parents despite the fact that its applicability with Aboriginal people is yet to be established. For Aboriginal parents, attachment theory has mainly been applied in educational, prevention, and treatment programs in parent-child relationships. Due to its central role in child development, it’s important to understand attachment theory and its relevance to social work practice.
Summary of Attachment Theory:
As a widely recognized significant model for understanding individual development, attachment theory plays a crucial role in shaping our capacity for interpersonal relationships and the formation of our view of people around us and the world (Neckoway, Brownlee & Castellan, 2007, p.66). The theory was introduced by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst who argued that attachment is biologically centered and represents the instinctual need for a dependable, continual relationship with a primary caregiver. This implies that a child may experience tremendous emotional damage if attachment is disrupted, lost, or lacking. The argument is based on Bowlby’s emphasis on the distress infants tend to exhibit when they are separated from their primary giver or the individual they are emotionally bonded.
The British psychoanalyst developed attachment theory after identifying a range of infant attachment behaviors through his research (Bretherton, n.d.). Some of these behaviors include smiling, crying, following, and clinging, which help in keeping the caregiver close to the child to ensure his/her safety and survival. These attachment behaviors were usually brought into play when distance from the attachment figure goes beyond some threshold either in time or space and the child sought to reclaim proximity. An infant’s internal working model is formed through the attachment figure’s responsive action or inaction to the expressed attachment needs of the infant. The internal working model is a mental representation or view regarding the willingness or ability of people around him/her to offer care and comfort by meeting the infant’s expressed attachment needs.
Bowlby argued that an optimal internal working model is developed when the attachment figures are able to...