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Outline and evaluate Bowlby's theory of attachment

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Scarlett Hayes, 12R1 Outline and evaluate Bowlby's theory of attachment Attachment is a strong, reciprocal, emotional bond between an infant and his or her caregiver that is characterised by the desire to maintain proximity. Attachments take different forms such as insecure and secure. Infants display attachment through the degree of separation anxiety shown when separated from the caregiver, pleasure at reunion and stranger anxiety. John Bowlby was working to find out what caused attachment from the 1940's onwards. His original theory proposed that a child must form an attachment with their primary caregiver within a very limited time or the consequence would be quite severe. His 1946 study aimed to establish the cause and effect relationship between maternal deprivation and emotional maladjustment based on his observations at his child guidance clinic. He had observed that children showing poor emotional development had often experienced separation/ deprivation and suggested that this can result in psychological and behavioural problems in later life. ...read more.


This could undermine the validity of his research. Bowlby saw attachment as a process that the mother and child engaged in, in order to prolong survival, in a very Darwinian way. The baby needs warmth, protection and food from the mother and in responding the mother ensures the continuation of her genetic material. Once the bond is established this provides the child with a 'secure base' from which to explore, thus enabling the child to mature and eventually establish independence. The process is aided by 'social releasers'. These are behaviours which help the attachment bond to form and be maintained as they are continual. Social releasers include crying and gurgling. Once established, these behaviours tend to cause the carer to act in a particular way i.e. getting the child food, etc. Bowlby insists on a 'critical period' of about 2.5 years from the age of 6months. Attachment must have occurred during this time and if not the child will suffer the consequences later in life. ...read more.


Howes et al, 1994 found that different relationships are formed with a variety of people and if an internal working model was formed as a template for all relationships then all relationships would be the same. As the relationship with the mother is stronger and more intense than those they share with others, this shows that an internal working model may not be the template for all future relationships. Also, it was found that parent-child relationships may not be positively correlated with child-peer relationships. The explanation could be as simple as some children might just be better at forming relationships than others, meaning it is individual differences in infants that account for attachments. Children who are appealing to their parents are likely to be appealing to other people. Therefore it could be said that a child who does well in one relationship is more likely to do well in others. Bowlby puts forward interesting ideas and his research led to many changes in childcare and led to further research into attachments, for which it cannot be criticised. ...read more.

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