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How has Bowlby's original formulation of attachment theory been modified in the light of subsequent research? What are the implications for ideas about child care?

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Introduction

How has Bowlby's original formulation of attachment theory been modified in the light of subsequent research? What are the implications for ideas about child care? Bowlby's original theory of attachment was concerned with the bonding relationship that develops between an infant and his primary caregiver. He believed the process of bonding to have a biological basis as the genes of those infants who successfully sought the protection of a caregiver (from predators and other dangers) will have survived and been passed on. Bowlby also formulated the Maternal Deprivation hypothesis (1953) which is associated with his theory of attachment and resulted from a study on delinquent boys. Bowlby found that many of these boys shared a history of institutionalised care and concluded that infants need to bond with and maintain a loving relationship with a mother figure, for good mental health. This recommendation came at a time when men had returned from the 2nd. World War and needed employment. Bowlby's findings affected childcare as it provided a reason for the nurseries (started during the war) to close, persuading mothers back into their traditional role at home and thus freeing up jobs for the men. ...read more.

Middle

having more time to spend with their offspring because of unemployment and changing work patterns which allow for shared childcare between parents. But, as Dr Margaret O'Brien points out, the mother often shares a more intimate relationship with the newborn, as interaction with the infant can be quite intense during the months of breastfeeding. This relegates the attachment of the father to one of a supporting nature. Often where day-care is established for the infant, it will be the mother who makes arrangements to take and collect the infant and to be available during any periods of sickness. Dr Charlie Lewis also pointed out on the tape, that many children are brought up in single-parent families without ill-effect, so perhaps fathers are not strictly necessary as long as the infant has one or two primary caregivers who are responsive and available. This idea is supported by the work of Wallerstein & Kelley (1980) who found that in cases of divorce, the children were least affected where grandparents were available to sensitively support the children throughout the experience. The concept of monotropism then, is gradually being replaced by the idea that infants will thrive where there is a strong social network supporting the child and where attachment is possible with one or two caregivers. ...read more.

Conclusion

Bowlby's recommendation now seems too restrictive, as modern research is indicating that child day-care can be a positive experience for the infant. One aspect of Bowlby's work which has not been modified but has provided the basis for further research is the concept of the internal working model. Bowlby suggested that the infant forms a mental representation of their relationship with their primary caregiver which persists throughout life. Work has been done using Mary Main's AAI (Adult Attachment Interview) to ascertain the quality of the relationship in the adult. It is widely believed that the quality of early attachment relationships affects the way we form later relationships and the quality of parenting skills. Research is currently investigating ways of intervening where there is risk of insecure attachment by modifying the adult internal working model. Bowlby's work then has provided a good foundation for further research; the strange situation technique was based on Bowlby's theory of attachment and is still widely used today in assessing the quality of attachments. The concept of the internal working model is also still useful and has provided a way of approaching the improvement of parenting skills. Modern research has, however, largely rendered the maternal deprivation hypothesis redundant, along with the message that mothers should stay at home to raise their children. Attachment Theory linda healy Page 1 5/7/2007 ...read more.

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