The Development Of Attachment Essay

1800 words - 7 pages

One of the most important factors that affect child development is the relationship of the child with their primary caregiver. This is a tenet of developmental psychology known as attachment theory. John Bowlby, the creator of this theory, wanted to examine how early childhood experiences influence personality development. Attachment theory specifically examines infant’s reactions to being separated from their primary caregiver. Bowlby hypothesized that the differences in how children react to these situations demonstrates basic behavioral differences in infancy that will have consequences for later social and emotional development.

To study attachment theory, Mary Ainsworth developed the Strange Situation Paradigm. This procedure examines the reaction of the infant when their primary caregiver leaves them for up to three minutes. The emotional response of the child to being left alone and the behavior of the child when the caregiver reappears are coded on a seven point rating scale. Based on these scores children are divided into three categories which illustrate the quality of the attachment. Securely attached children are confident in their relationship with their primary caregiver, and are not afraid to explore new things. In the Strange Situation, these infants are less distressed during separation and happy to see their caregiver during the reunion and will often make contact with them. Infants with an insecure-avoidant attachment are characterized by a lack of positive affect toward their primary caregiver. They are less distressed during the separation than most infants, and reserve their emotional response not for their caregiver but for toys or the experimenter. Infants with insecure-ambivalent or resistant attachment patterns spend a longer amount of time in contact with their caregiver, even during times of low stress. They also show high levels of stress during separation and remain distressed even after the reunion. Although these are the two main insecure attachment categories, current research suggests that there are countless forms of insecure attachment patterns besides the ones Ainsworth highlighted in her research (Barnett & Vondra, 1999).

The Strange Situation is meant to be a snapshot of the relationship between infant and caregiver, and provide insight into the dyadic patterns that define this bond. Securely attached children are thought to have a primary caregiver who is sensitive, available and receptive to their infants needs. Insecure-avoidant children have primary caregivers who are intrusive, controlling and hurtful. These caregivers may be present in the infant’s life but unable to understand their infants needs, and provide the correct response. Caregivers of insecure-ambivalent infants have been found to be unresponsive to the needs of the infant, and very often unavailable. The effect of this treatment is that the infant is starved for affection and attention. The infant also feels the...

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