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Evaluate the contribution of John Bowlby to the development of the theory of attachment.

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Tutor: Ian Rivers Student: Ian Walbridge Subject: Psychology of child development (2PY020). ? Essay question: Evaluate the contribution of John Bowlby to the development of the theory of attachment. 01/05/07 Evaluate the contribution of John Bowlby to the development of the theory of attachment. "Bowlby drew the model of branching developmental pathways (a tree lying on its side) wherein change is always possible but is constrained by the branching pathways previously chosen" (Sroufe, 1986) p.842. This rather basic analogy helps understand that for development to be successive, an early base of good upbringing (pathways) is to be needed. Our early experiences can be of great importance as each successive adaptation is a product of new situations and our development to that point. The ability to differentiate between adults in infancy is the start of attachment, and it is attachment where John Bowlby believes great importance should be emphasised to develop stable mental health. Bowlby is considered to have built upon earlier psychoanalytical work and could be seen as a "coherent part of the theoretical evolution begun by Freud" (Sroufe, 1986). Bowlby began his research on the effect of separation from parents on children during the Second World War, be it through death or being an evacuee (Pervin, 1997). From his studies, Bowlby was to make two hypotheses: (1) That the quality of any attachment relationship depends on the quality of care experienced with that partner and (2) ...read more.


This could be a major criticism against Bowlby, as adolescence and adulthood attachments are not accounted for in his work, although Bowlby (1980) suggested that attachment behaviour is "less readily activated" in older individuals but, these individuals do seek the "stronger and wiser" in times of stress. This is not far removed from the infant/mother theory. However, Bowlby does detail in his theory why stages occurred; explanations can be missing from other theories. Sroufe (1986) believed that the two hypotheses' proposed by Bowlby at the beginning of this essay were "amply supported", this is another positive outcome that Bowlby's theory provides; it is testable, as explained earlier (Ainsworth, 1978 and Harlow, 1958). Was Bowlby for or against psychoanalysis? Garelli (2000) points to a contradiction Bowlby made claiming that throughout his work his frame of reference has been psychoanalysis. However, Garelli also observed that Bowlby criticises the method in which psychoanalysis gathers data for its conclusions: end-product backwards. This is to say that older participants are interviewed and studied and a conclusion is derived from their statements. Memory, aversion, repression and 'eye-witness testimony' are just a few aspects that can render psychoanalysis impractical. Garelli (2000) also states that: "Where psychoanalysis relies on memories, attachment theory distrusts them. Where psychoanalysis asserts the natural site to perform research is the consulting room, Attachment theory declares research must be done out of the psychotherapeutic premises. Where psychoanalysis works retrospectively, trying to reconstruct the patients infancy, attachment theory is determined to see by its own eyes what goes on during infancy and early childhood directly, dispensing with untrustworthy informants". ...read more.


In addition, his work has provided us with characteristics of 'good' parenting and why, from this, problem behaviour occurs. Bowlby (1969) noted an example of this: avoidance. Research had shown Bowlby that after long-term separations, a clear avoidance of the mother was seen in the child's behaviour. Bowlby interpreted this as repression. Main (1996) has elaborated on this research and proposes that it is actually the mother/caregiver who has been the contributor to the child's behaviour through her own behaviour: avoiding tactual contact and rejecting attachment. This once again tells us the benefits of having access to much earlier work and more advanced scientific methods. Bowlby's pioneering work on the effects of maternal deprivation possibly lead to childcare in hospitals and other institutions being revolutionised. What is still left unclear and is the cause for many debates is what the implications are on behaviour in later life. Sroufe (1986) claims that Bowlby had the advantage over Freud with twentieth century advances in scientific theory and fifty years of basic research in developmental and comparative psychology. If John Bowlby were alive today it would be interesting to see if he could develop a more generous model of attachment that could account for multiple attachments and ongoing attachments that occur through life. Possibly though, Bowlby's greatest contribution to attachment theory was to involve the child and allow them to be seen as an interactive human who requires a caregiver that will help them develop their own attachment behaviour to others. ...read more.

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