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The Role Of Attachment In Infancy Is Vital In Subsequent Emotional Development

1492 words - 6 pages

“Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space” McLeod (2009), as a core component of social and emotional development, the necessity and role of caregivers is a heavily researched area. Theories differ on the impairment that a crippled or complete lack of attachment causes to an infant in terms of social, emotional or intellectual development. These theories range from Harlow’s unethical work with infant rhesus monkeys to Chisholm’s study of Romanian orphans, the work remains relevant however in order to be aware of how to support or setback the deleterious affects that studies appear to be congruent on occur in infants of abuse or that have been abandoned.
The paper Total social isolation in monkeys by Dodsworth, Harlow, & Harlow (1965), likens rhesus monkeys to children as parallels exist between the social development of humans and monkeys. The study kept infant rhesus monkeys in total isolation therefore depriving them completely of any caregiver and possibility of attachment, mimicking children in orphanages, or children suffering from emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Though no monkeys died during isolation, a monkey that had been isolated for 3 months developed emotional anorexia and refused to eat subsequently dying. While the effects of total social isolation from birth was severely deleterious, rhesus monkeys that had been socially isolated from birth showed no social skills such as play, aggression or sexual behavior, though instead high levels of fear in social situations. Harlow however observed that though the social or emotional brain had been obliterated, the intellectual portion seemed to be intact. Suomi and Harlow (1972) also found that the effect of isolation appeared to be semi-reversible, when the rhesus monkey that had been in isolation was placed with peers of a younger age, the peers seemed to cuddle and embrace the isolated monkey, after approximately 6 months the isolated monkeys behavior was comparable to that of others within it’s age group and the monkey was exploring the environment and playing with others.
Within an ideal attachment relationship as suggested by Mary Ainsworth (1963, 1967) in the strange situation procedure, the caregiver acts as a secure base where to the infant can return during exploration of the environment if the infant feels insecure or fearful. John Bowlby (1969, 1988) proposed the maternal deprivation hypothesis based on the belief that infants are biologically predisposed to form attachments to a caregiver, founded upon the caregivers ability to respond appropriately to the infants needs. The maternal deprivation hypothesis proposes long-term damage due to absence of attachment with a caregiver during the critical or sensitive period, within the first two to three years of life. Caregivers responses to emotional cues through such things as affect attunement, in which the care-giver is sensitive and attuned to...

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