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Separation Anxiety And Attachment In Infants And Toddlers

2859 words - 11 pages


Susie’s mother opened the door to let Molly, Susie’s babysitter, inside. Ten-month old Susie seemed happy to see Molly. Susie then observed her mother put her jacket on and Susie’s face turned from smiling to sad as she realized that her mother was going out. Molly had sat for Susie many times in the past month, and Susie had never reacted like this before. When Susie’s mother returned home, the sitter told her that Susie had cried until she knew that her mother had left and then they had a nice time playing with toys until she heard her mother’s key in the door. Then Susie began crying once again.

At a certain age infants begin to resist the unfamiliar and are very vocal in expressing their feelings (Brazelton, 1992). Sometimes this causes parents to hesitate leaving their child with someone unfamiliar to this child even if the parents know them well. It’s hard to leave when their young child is crying for them. They want him/her to be well taken care of and happy when they are not together.

From birth to about six months old, an infant doesnÂ’t seem to mind staying with an unfamiliar person (Brazelton, 1992), although the infant is able to distinguish his mother from other people (Slater, et al, 1998). As the infant gets a little older, at about eight to ten months, he/she begins to cry when his caregiver is not his mother or father; and again between eighteen and twenty-four months, when the infant finds out he/she has some control over what happens (Schuster, 1980). Separation anxiety could, and often does, make parents feel guilty for leaving their child and might make them wonder if they are causing their child undue stress.

Separation anxiety has been studied for many years beginning with documentation by David Levy (Karen, 1998) in 1937 who was interested in “’maternal overprotection’ – the emotional impact of mothers who are anxious, overly cautious, and generally infantilizing of their young” (Karen, 1998, 16). His study involved several young children who had not had maternal care as infants and seemed unable to connect emotionally with their adoptive parents. He remarked that these children appeared to be suffering from “primary affect hunger,” which Levy defined as not only a hunger for affection, but for all the emotions that come with interacting with a mother every day. He asked the question “Is it possible that there results a deficiency disease of the emotional life, comparable to a deficiency of vital nutritional elements within the developing organism?” (Karen, 1998, 17).

In the early days of child psychology, one of the current thoughts on the development of infants was the eugenics movement where it is believed that genes play the most important role in how a person will turn out. Arnold Gesell believed that a childÂ’s environment has an influence on how he/she expresses him/herself, but that genetics is the main determinant of their behavior. Gesell also believes that human beings...

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