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Sensitive Mothering Is Essential To The Social And Emotional Development Of The Child. Discuss This Statement In The Context Of Relevant Developme

2296 words - 10 pages

A mother’s role is of great significance to every child’s development. This essay aims to focus on the role of the mother in terms of sensitive and insensitive mothering (Ainsworth in Smith, Cowie & Blades, 2003) and how each affects the child socially and emotionally. We will explore Bowlby’s attachment theory (Bowlby 1988) and view Ainsworth’s research regarding the types of attachment (Ainsworth in Barnes, 1995). Furthermore we will look into Erikson’s psychosocial developmental theory (Erikson in Stevens, 1983) emphasising on the first stage. Lastly, we will view research undertaken with children and adults to determine how early attachments impact the social and emotional development.
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To establish the importance of attachment and the effects of maternal deprivation (Bowlby in Barnes, 1995), Bowlby carried out research with young offenders and discovered that most of them had been separated from their mothers during their early years and seemed emotionless. He linked their attitude and misbehaviour to material deprivation. Further research with hospitalised children separated from their parents before their fifth year showed the effects entailed. The children showed a specific series of responses such as protest, despair, denial and detachment (Bowlby in Barnes, 1995). They seemed unconcerned by the separation and emotionless upon reuniting with their parents. Bowlby concluded that “mother-love in infancy was vital for healthy social and emotional development” (Bowlby in Macleod – Brudenell & Kay, 2008, p99).

Further support to Bowlby’s theory came from research undertaken with animals by Harlow and Lorenz (Bowlby, 1988). Harlow (McLeod, 2009) studied the effects of maternal deprivation by using newborn monkeys kept in isolation. Some of them died whilst others become anxious and aggressive towards others. Monkeys kept in isolation for long periods showed irreversible effects. Harlow (Bowlby, 1988) also found that attachment did not necessarily link to food provision but mostly to comfort. This was established whilst observing new-born monkeys in cages with surrogate mothers. One being a wired feeding bottle and the other covered with a soft cloth. The monkeys spent more time with the cloth monkey using it as a secure base to explore. They approached the wire mother only when hungry.

Lorenz’s (in Barnes, 1995), discovered that birds absorb the characteristics of a moving object and tend to follow it. By imitating motherly sounds to new-born geese he came to realise that they responded to him and started to follow him. This process became known as imprinting (Lorenz in Barnes, 1995). Lorenz suggested a critical period (Lorenz in Barnes, 1995) of thirteen to sixteen hours after birth for imprinting to occur or else it never would. Based on this, Bowlby (in Barnes, 1995) proposed a similar critical period for infants to form an attachment from six months to three years. Additionally, he proposed infant attachment as a developmental process and described four phases of attachment (Bowlby in Smith, Cowie & Blades, 2003).

The first Pre-attachment phase from zero to eight weeks during which the infant is unable to distinguish between people but may recognise familiar voices or faces. The second phase is, attachment in the making from two to six months during which the infant starts discriminating between others and his/her mother therefore favouring her. During this time the child also starts to build his/her sense of trust. The third phase is the clear cut attachment from six months to two years during which the infant starts following his/her mother whom is considered a secure base in order to explore. During this...

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