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Describe and evaluate Bowlbys theory of attachment.

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'Describe and evaluate Bowlby's theory of attachment' 12 Marks John Bowlby was a British psychologist and psychoanalyst. Born in 1907, he was notable for his interest in child psychology and development, and presented two key theories: the maternal deprivation hypothesis, and, perhaps the more significant, attachment theory. His work was important in that it carried major implications for advising about childcare. His findings will have made people think about how they bring up their children, and what the best way is to care for them. For example, for parents who drop their child off at a nursery at eight am, and collect them at six pm, they began to consider whether allowing the child to be around someone else all day could mean that they form attachments with that person, as opposed to the actual parents. The time when the baby is most often awake is during the day, and the nursery nurses are the ones who care for them during that time, whereas early in the morning or late in the evening contact is not how parents will form the vital attachment with their child. ...read more.


Furthermore, if a child grows up without a maternal influence due to death of the mother, or her leaving etc, does this mean that they will not be able to develop normally? Will there be a knock-on effect in later life? Another problem is that of adopted children. If a child finds out they are adopted when they are older, even though they will have formed an attachment with their adoptive parents, they will often still feel a bond between themselves and their birth parents, posing the question is attachment just about nurture, or is nature involved too? A lot of Bowlby's work is supported by other psychologists and researchers, which make his claims more valid, in the sense that other people have had similar findings, so there is more likely to be some truth in what he claimed. Not only did people develop his ideas and concepts, but he did too. He built on Freud's idea that mother-child relationships play a large role in future relationships. ...read more.


This process of attachment, Bowlby said, takes place within the critical period, which thought to be the first three years. He believed that the attachment process should not be disrupted, or there would be serious consequences. This belief is supported by other evidence found that the critical period is vital to a child's development. If a child grows up with insecure attachment patterns, they will "develop the inability to form secure attachments and react in a hostile, rejecting manner with their environment" (Pickover, 2002), meaning that often such children will allow themselves to get close to an 'attachment figure', and then pull themselves away before they can be rejected, striving to not allow themselves get hurt. Also, it can be because they don't deem themselves worthy of the love and care, in extreme cases. In my opinion, parents should be held responsible to an extent, as they do have a large influence over the early years of a child's development; but, there are other factors to consider. Also, I don't believe that the mother is mainly the primary attachment figure. There are some parts I do and other parts of Bowlby's theory I don't agree with. ...read more.

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Response to the question

Response to question : Overall, they gave a good response – lots of background detail describing Bowlby’s theory was provided and some evaluation given (however I think the weighting of these two parts of the question could have been balanced ...

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Response to the question

Response to question : Overall, they gave a good response – lots of background detail describing Bowlby’s theory was provided and some evaluation given (however I think the weighting of these two parts of the question could have been balanced better - I would have focussed mostly on evaluation with *some* description to introduce the reader to what exactly the theory is/who Bowlby is). The description of John Bowlby and his theories is very detailed and therefore answers the ‘describe’ portion of the question appropriately (the writer covers: who Bowlby was, his main theories/ideas, and how these theories have been applied/influential). The evaluative points given are clearly stated (implications in childcare, controversy over the roles of fathers and adoptive parents, reductionism, and supporting evidence) but more of focus on evaluation is needed to answer the second part of the question. The weighting of marks is 4 for description and 8 for evaluation, and so the number of points for each should roughly reflect this. (So - the writer should ask themselves: What research is there to support/refute the theory? What are the advantages/limitations of these studies? Do they have good/bad validity and/or reliability? Why are validity and reliability important? Do the theories have useful implications and applications e.g. in this case implications for amount of daycare used for young children?)

Level of analysis

Level of analysis : Some evaluation is given however more is necessary to receive top marks (this shows that you not only understand the theory but that you know it's weaknesses and can hence decide accordingly how correct and useful the ideas are). Also, the analysis given could be further expanded upon for example where the writer says “A lot of Bowlby’s work is supported by other psychologists and researchers, which make his claims more valid”, specific examples of evidence would show better knowledge and support this argument. To add, the writer should explain why this makes it more valid, what validity is, and why we want to achieve good validity. When evidence is cited (e.g. Pickover, 2002), it is useful to describe briefly what the research involved (was it an experiment? Observation? Who were the participants?) as this shows that the student fully understands why and how the researcher concluded what they did. On a more positive note, the writer gives arguments both for and against the theory and comes to a conclusion which follows suit.

Quality of writing

Quality of writing : The accuracy of spelling, grammar and punctuation are all good. The writer does use some technical terms however some more casual phrases are also used such as ‘letting people in’; I think it would be better to re-word this in order to sound more formal. Also, the writer uses lots of contractions – it would be more conventional to write “do not” rather than “don’t”. Additionally, the last paragraph weakens the overall argument as it is based too much on the writer’s own opinion rather than on solid evidence. To improve this, they should refer back to each evaluative point throughout the essay (this brings the whole thing together and reminds the reader how much evidence argues for and against), then come to a final decision on the success of the theory.

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Reviewed by danielle-dansmell 19/02/2012

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