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Discuss the contributions of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth to our understanding of the early parent-child relationship.

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Alison Portlock 20045505 Psy1003 It has been said of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth that they "revolutionized the way in which we think and observe young children and their parents" (Goldberg, 2000) Discuss the contributions of these two individuals to our understanding of the early parent-child relationship. Attachment describes "an infants tendency to seek closeness to particular people and to feel more secure in their presence"(Atkinson et al, 2000). There are two major perspectives that deal with parental/child attachment theory. The behaviorist view is that infants become attached to their mother because she is a source of food and she removes the tension of hunger. The Psychoanalytical view is that infants are driven by sexual drives and the mother provides gratification to the child. Several pieces of evidence showing that both of these theories are not entirely correct have been found. Take ducklings for instance. They feed them selves from birth yet they still follow their mother around and always like to be in their presence. Therefore, the comfort they get from their mother cannot be based upon feeding. Harlow & Harlow (1962) researched attachment amongst Rhesus monkeys. ...read more.


Mitzukami et al (1990), however, used telethermography to show that infants show evidence of attachment in infants as young as four months old. He found that skin temperature lowers slightly as the infant's caregiver leaves and a stranger appears. This shows that attachment develops earlier than Bowlby suggests. In order to recognize whether or not an infant has a "secure" relationship with their caregiver, Bowlby introduced the "Internal Working Model". This consists of two sub models, the "self" and "other". It suggests that when a child has a "secure" attachment with their caregiver, it sees itself as worthy of attention and love. The infant also sees the caregiver as someone who meets his or her needs. Whereas, If an infant has an "insecure" attachment, it would see themselves as not worthy of attention, and the caregiver as unreliable in meeting their needs. Ainsworth et al (1978), a student of Bowlby's, carried out a study to discover how the above models can be detected in infants. The study is known as the "strange situation" where a child is observed through a series of episodes. A child and mother enter a room full of toys, after a while, a stranger joins them. ...read more.


Ainsworth pursued her theory to discover why attachments differ. She suggests that the quality of the attachment determine the differences. She discovered that if caregivers were secure in their responses to the child then they would develop a secure attachment. The avoidant attachment occurs when the mother rejects the infant. If the caregiver is inconsistent with responses to the child, they will have a resistant attachment and the disorganized attachment is a result of parental depression or abuse to the child. Belsky (1999) puts forward the idea that the attachment the caregiver had with their caregiver often reflects the attachment they hold with their child. Therefore, the theory of attachment has developed immensely through the work of Bowlby and Ainsworth. They have helped us to understand how parent/child attachments develop and they provide us with a reason why children may develop in different ways. Although there are some criticisms of their theories, they give us a solid base as to why attachment is important in the development of infants. So, the idea that Bowlby and Ainsworth have "revolutionized the way in which we think and observe young children and their parents" is supported by their theories. They give us a structure to advance on and maybe produce a clearer, more accurate way of researching attachment in infancy. ...read more.

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