Attachment Theory Essay

1817 words - 7 pages

Introduction
John Bowlby developed his Attachment Theory to examine and explore the contextual relationships between a child and their caregiver and their behavioral repercussions. He describes it is “a way of conceptualizing the propensity of human beings to make strong affectional bonds to particular others and of explaining the many forms of emotional distress and personality disturbance, including anxiety, anger, depression, and emotional detachment, to which unwilling separation and loss give rise” (Bowlby, 1979, p. 127). An infant’s attachment to their primary caregiver establishes a sense of security, through protection, so the infant is able to explore the world with confidence and without threat and risk. During a child’s “sensitive period”, which according to Bowlby occurs during the first nine months of an infant’s life, the attachment bond should be continuous and of an emotional importance (Connors, 2011).
Furthering Bowlby’s research, Mary Ainsworth introduced the concept of a “secure base” and conducted research using a procedure called the “Strange Situation” to establish three attachment patterns; secure attachment, insecure - avoidant attachment, and insecure – anxious – ambivalent (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). Mary Main later added a fourth dimension of attachment, insecure – disorganized (Main & Solomon, 1986). Ideally, the relationship between child and primary caregiver produces a secure attachment, promoting adaptability, healthy lifestyles, and positive thinking (Connors, 2011). Ainsworth, through her “Strange Situation Protocol”, identifies the securely attached infant as one who is both visibly upset when the caregiver leaves and happy upon their return. Rooted in their secure base, the child feels varying degrees of comfort when their caregiver is absent and in the presence of a stranger and possess the security that help is near if they should require it. Next on the continuum of attachment styles, the insecure-anxious-ambivalent child displays an extreme reaction of distress to their caregiver’s departure and a slight inclination to explore. (Connors, 2011) Upon the return of their parent or caregiver, this child is not comforted and physically resists contact. Noted by Ainsworth in her “Strange Situation”, this child’s “interactive behaviors are relatively lacking in active initiation” (Ainsworth et al., 1978), meaning the child, seeking validation, might respond to the return of their parent but this generally includes emotional outbursts instead of taking an active approach to their parent. The insecure-avoidant pattern of attachment displays an infant who lacks a secure base and fails to respond to both the departure and return of their primary caregiver. (Ainsworth et al., 1978), Further, the “Strange Situation” displayed this child as turning away or “squirming” when contact was reestablished between child and caregiver (Connors, 2011). Finally, the later addition of the...

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