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The Development Of Attachment Theory And Its Strengths And Limitations

1443 words - 6 pages

The Development of Attachment Theory and Its Strengths and Limitations

English psychiatrist John Bowlby is a leading and influential figure
within the history of social reform. His work has influenced social
work policies and legislation relating to child psychiatry and
psychology. Bowlby was trained as a psychoanalyst, and was influenced
by Freudians theories, but became influenced again in his attachment
theory by the work of ethologists. The ethologists theory concentrates
on looking at the role parents play rather than only the child. Bowlby
believes that parenting has strong ties with biology and it explains
why there are such strong emotions attached. Bowlby’s main idea was
that of the main caregiver providing a safe and secure base in which
the child can return to over again, without coming to any harm. This
serves the evolutionary function of such behaviour which then leads to
emotionally secure bonds being built. This increases basic survival
value in the beginning and then helps to bring about the reproductive
success of the species in the end.

There have been some studies relating to attachment involving Rhesus
monkeys. The work of Harlow (Harlow, Mcgaugh & Thompson 1971) revealed
that the child becomes attached because of the main and basic needs of
hunger and thirst. This has become known as the “Cupboard love” theory
and represents important psychological motives as the child learns to
love the mother. Comfort and warmth are also important and fundamental
in parental care as the following studies show. Maternal deprivation
has been studied using two wire supports as substitutes for the mother
on Rhesus monkeys. One of the supports used was uncomfortable and cold
but yielded food, the other was warm and comfortable but food was not

The studies revealed that the monkeys chose to feed from the
uncomfortable wire support first then went on to cling to the
comfortable and warm cloth covered support, this revealed that contact
comfort was more important than just being fed. These monkeys went
onto becoming severely debilitated in their social relationships and
also made incapable parents. Bowlby also believed that another
important aspect in the development of child rearing is the importance
of timing. There is a critical period of bonding between mother and
baby which must take place at 6-12 hours after the birth; the contact
must take place within that time otherwise attachment risks failure.
This belief comes from the ethologists influence of imprinting with
young animals primarily goslings.

Lorenz (1935) revealed strong bonds with non-humans with first moving
objects that they encounter; which was not always with the mother. In
precocial species the mobile young animal needs to quickly identify
its caregiver and remain close to them for survival....

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