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Bowlby's Attachment Theory

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Bowlby's Attachment Theory Findings form animal studies were a powerful influence on Bowlby's thoughts. He suggested too that there was a critical period for the development of attachments between infant and care giver. According to Bowlby infants display an innate tendency to become attached to one particular individual. He called this monotropy. He suggested this tendency was qualitatively different from any subsequent attachment a child might form. However, he did not suggest monotropy was absolute but that the child has a hierarchy of attachments. Bowlby thought that if a child was deprived of their mother between 6 months and five years of age then this would lead to difficulties in later life. They would be unable to form attachments with others and would be likely to turn to crime. He termed this as his maternal deprivation hypothesis. Bowlby suggested that separation experiences in early childhood caused affectionless psychopathy. This is the inability to have deep feelings for other people and, therefore, the lack of meaningful personal relationships. In his hypothesis, Bowlby believed that an infant's failure to attach to a primary caregirt hypothesis. Firstly, the terms 'attachment' and 'deprivation' will be defined. Following that, a full definition of the hypothesis will be made, and then an attempt will be made to describe and understand the studies and period of history that lead to Bowlby's ideas and the influence they generated. ...read more.


Bowlby concluded that a warm intimate and continuing relationship with a mother figure is an essential precondition for mental health. Maternal deprivation or a disturbed emotional attachment between mother and child was said to cause irreparable damage, not only to the child but also to society as a whole. He stated (1951) "deprived children, whether in their own homes or not, are a source of social infection as real and serious as are carriers of diphtheria and typhoid". Bowlby's report to the WHO had a great deal of influence among health care officials, social workers, and parents. But the conclusions he came to were very controversial and caused arguments right from the very beginning. Contrary to behaviourists and Freudians, who thought that physical comfort was a caregiver's primary concern, Bowlby (1951) suggested that emotional care was at least equally important. He states that "maternal attachment is as essential for healthy psychological development as vitamins and minerals are for physical health". Bowlby (1951) also proposed the concept of monotropy, that is the need for one central caregiver, usually the mother, but alternatively the father or another person. Finally, Bowlby (1951) felt that there was a critical period in the formation of attachments. He believed that children who experience maternal deprivation below the age of four will suffer permanent damage. ...read more.


Instead, it may be that general family discord underlies the emotional disturbances observed by Bowlby. It may also be that affectionless psychopathy is due to the initial failure to form attachments (privation) rather than attachment disruption (deprivation). Finally, situations where children experience deprivation, such as short hospital stays, may create emotional disturbance because of the strange and frightening environment as much as the separation and interference with attachments. Bowlby's reliance on retrospective studies linking caregiver separation with delinquency cannot be seen as establishing a causal link between the two. It is equally possible that factors other than the absence of the mother (lack of parental supervision for example) could have been responsible for the delinquency. Rutter (1981) found that it was the circumstances surrounding the loss that was most likely to determine the consequences rather than the loss per se. Bowlby's deprivation hypothesis was important in changing our view of early emotional behaviour from one of dependency, the behaviourist and Freudian view, to one where the infant is an active participant in eliciting care. The criticisms served to refine this theory in several important ways: to include multiple attachments, to place less emphasis on mother-love and to distinguish between different kinds of deprivation. McFaydon (1994) suggests that many critics 'seem almost to have got stuck in a time warp, hanging on to [Bowlby's] early ideas, which were of course extremely controversial but also important and influential at the time' ...read more.

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Reasonable knowledge and understanding of Bowlby's theory demonstrated. Structure of essay could be improved. 4*

Marked by teacher Stephanie Duckworth 16/07/2013

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