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Discuss the significance of early attachments for later peer relationships and adjustment.

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Discuss the significance of early attachments for later peer relationships and adjustment. Attachment is a key area when studying the development of children. Attachment is a secondary drive that is derived from primary drives such as hunger. When a child is hungry they want feeding, this is the primary drive, they look to the mother for food, she provides it and the attachment made is the secondary drive. There are many different approaches, studies and theories concerned with attachment. I intend to look at the attachment stages, categories of secure and insecure attachment, theories of attachment, maternal deprivation and privation and the ways in which they may affect later peer relationships and adjustment. Overall I will discuss whether attachment in the first years of life is significant in determining later peer relationships and adjustment. According to Shaffer (1993) an attachment is: "A close emotional relationship between two persons characterised by mutual affection and a desire to maintain proximity." Within the first year of life a child is said to go through three stages of attachment. The first occurs between 0-6 weeks, in this time the child's smiling or crying is not directed at any particular individual. During the second stage, which is between 6 weeks and Seven months of age, the child seeks attention from different individuals; this is the indiscriminate attachment stage and is followed by the specific attachments stage, which occurs between 7 and 11 months old. ...read more.


Significant failure or trauma in these early relationships will permanently shape the child's development. Bowlby claimed that breaking the attachment bond or failing to achieve one before the child reaches the age of three can have serious effects on the child intellectually, socially and emotionally and those effects can be permanent and irreversible. Bowlby focused on the child's first attachment to the mother as the attachment which influences later relationships and adjustment, he believed the child/mother attachment to be the earliest and arguably the most central. In the 1950's and 1960's Harlow conducted a series of experiments on attachment. Harlow used rhesus monkeys that that had been reared in isolation. He then used two 'surrogate' monkeys, a wire model and a cloth model, both with images of monkey faces on them. The wire model had a feeding bottle attached to it and the cloth model had no food at all. The rhesus monkeys went to the cloth monkey more often that the wire one, the only time they approached the wire model was to feed. This showed that for the young infant "contact comfort" was important. Harlow's experiment with the monkeys is often used when looking at attachment behaviours and effects. Infants deprived of maternal care developed behavioural problems, were timid and fearful and showed little interest in exploring their environment. ...read more.


Our relationship experiences and the way we adjust in social situations is apparently the result of our earliest attachment experience. This would propose that early attachment is significant in respect to later peer relationships and adjustment and to an extent I agree with this. However, as I have discussed it is not always the case that our earliest attachment shapes us. Throughout our lives there are numerous chances for us to change our attachment experience. Having an insecure attachment does not have to have a negative impact on our later attachments, we can form attachments later in life which can change this, the first attachment doesn't necessarily have to be the most important. This was not the case for the Second World War orphans. Their initial attachments were broken when their mothers died, so according to Bowlby they should probably have had bad experiences in terms of relationships later in life, however, they did not, they formed attachments to each other and later to adult caregivers and they managed to adjust well into adulthood. Bowlby's theory of maternal deprivation and later relationships is however significant when we look at negative attachments in childhood, when our earliest attachments involve abuse they can lead to serious mental impairment and an inability to function as an emotionally competent human being. The effects of a negative attachment in childhood can therefore be irreversible as stated by Bowlby. ...read more.

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