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'Consider the extent to which psychological theories have been successful in explaining attachments'.

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Introduction

Psychology - Attachment 'Consider the extent to which psychological theories have been successful in explaining attachments' In recent years, psychological theories have been somewhat successful in clarifying attachment types through various methods, however, there are several criticisms associated with these theories. The dictionary defines attachment as 'a bond of fidelity or affection', and in the psychological world it is recognised as just that, the emotional tie between an infant and their caregiver, which in most cases is the mother. This attachment formed in infancy is thought to be an important factor for later life, as it's believed to be essential for psychological development in forming relationships. The main three theories of attachment are the learning theory (the behaviourist approach), the psychoanalytical approach and Bowlby's theory, (the evolutionary approach). All three have significant points of interest in determining attachment and how it is formed, however, similarly, they all have criticisms, which stand in the way of a clearer understanding. There are certain psychologists who believe that humans are born like a blank state and that all behaviour is learnt, known as behaviourists. They assume that humans are conditioned to learn new responses, which over time become more and more complex. It has been suggested that when learning, the primary reinforcer for an infant would be the food whereas the person feeding, in which most circumstances is the mother, would be recognised as the secondary reinforcer. ...read more.

Middle

Freud declared that infants are born with an innate incentive to pursue pleasure, which he called the 'Pleasure Principle'. He believed that in infancy, the demand made by the 'id' is for oral satisfaction. Feeding can fulfil the need for oral satisfaction and so the person who provides this becomes recognised as the 'love object'. Therefore this is the person with whom the infant forms an attachment. However, this theory was heavily criticised along with the learning theory for suggesting that attachment is relevant to and formed by feeding. Freud's connection between food and attachment was proved wrong by Harlow's study with Rhesus monkeys showed that food alone was not a basis for attachment, but that comfort and security played a larger part in forming an attachment. Although Harlow was criticised for applying animal behaviourism to that of humans, research completed by Shaffer and Emerson showed that 40% of those infants studied formed attachment with a figure other than the one that fed it. Nowhere is the problem of credibility more apparent than when considering Freud's concepts of the personality being split into three parts and that there is a specific component named the 'id' which makes demands, whose view is so ver y different from the conventional. His beliefs are only are hypothetical suppositions that are unscientific and therefore difficult to revere to. Thirdly, the evolutionary theory proposed by Bowlby, claimed that infants developed an attachment to a specific caregiver because it was adaptive. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, although I can appreciate these specific parts of his theory, I don't agree with Bowlby's point that attachment is adaptive, as I can't distinguish any obvious link between survival and reproduction being related to attachment. In relation to the learning theory, although I can appreciate that in certain circumstances behaviour can be learnt and infants can learn to associate caregivers with specific stimuli, I don't think that these are the only contributing factors to the formation of an attachment. I personally believe that infant's are born with an instinctive drive which allows them to form attachments, rather than them being a blank state at birth that learns specific responses to particular stimuli. In my opinion, Freud's theory is the most difficult to identify with. This is because there is no scientific knowledge or research to back up his claims, proving that although his theory may have some relevance, the belief that an individual has demands made upon it by the 'id', his theory is based purely upon supposition. In conclusion, it is apparent that although psychologists have made specific developments, they have not been entirely successful in defining and explaining attachment due to the various criticisms, which weaken their overall arguments. Therefore, although there are various theories that have been put forward in an attempt to explain attachment and the formation of attachments, I believe that it is up to the individual to determine how successful psychologists have been in their explanations, as the theories are open to personal interpretation. Joanna Lowe Page 1 Miss Meyer ...read more.

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