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Theories of Attachment

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Introduction

Theories of Attachment According to Kagan et al (1978) an attachment is : "... an intense emotional relationship that is specific to two people, that endures overtime, and in which prolonged separation from the partner is accompanied by stress and sorrow." This suggests that attachment can happen at any point in the life cycle, our first attachment is very important for healthy development. The first attachment is that of the mother-child relationship. After the first initial attachment our next attachment is to our father as our parents are the first people we interact with, although some people interact first with their immediate guardian (care giver) when parents aren't there. This is the most important relationship of the child development period as it is from this that the child drives its confidence in the world. A break from this relationship is experienced as highly distressing and constitutes a considerable trauma (Schaffer 1964). Through frequent social and emotional exchanges with parents the infant not only defines itself, but also acquires a particular style and orientation that some researchers believe is carried over into later life (Sroufe 1978). ...read more.

Middle

However Schaffer's theory of attachment doesn't coincide with Bowlby and Freud's theories as Schaffer's (1971) 'cupboard love' theories of attachment put things the wrong way around. Instead of infants being passive recipients of nutrition (they 'live to eat'), he prefers to see them as active seekers of stimulation (they 'eat to live). Psychologists such as Schaffer did a considerable amount of research into the phases in the development of attachments. According to Schaffer (1996a) the attachment process can be divided into several phase or stages: Phase 1 (The pre-attachment stage) :- Birth - 2/3 months The infant directs his attachment to human figures as instinct; all are equally likely to evoke smiling or crying because the infant is not discriminating. Phase 2 (The indiscriminate attachment stage) :- 3-6 months the infant's attachment focuses on one figure, typically the primary caregiver, for example the mother. Phase 3 (The discriminate stage) :- 6-9 months The intensity of attachment to the mother or caregiver increases. Due to this and newly acquired motor skills, the infant now readily seeks the closeness to the caregiver. ...read more.

Conclusion

Longer term consequences of disrupted attachment are more difficult to establish; but is thought to be reversible, as children brought up in orphanages become securely attached to their adoptive parents even as late as 8 years old ( Tizard and Hodges 1978 cited in Butterworth & Harris 1994). In conclusion, Bowlby's ideas and research provided a comprehensive basis for present day approaches to attachment. Research implies that there are, therefore three main characteristics of attachment behaviours: Firstly, the infant seeks the closeness and proximity of the caregiver. Secondly, that the infant shows distress at separation from the attachment figure and then relief upon reunion, i.e., displays a clear preference even without physical contact by eye contact or attentiveness to the sound of the caregiver's voice. Thirdly, that the infant uses the attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore its physical and social environment (Brodzinsky, Gormly and Ambron 1979). The importance of attachment in the development of an infant cannot be underestimated, as it is from this bond that the infant finds comfort security and a base from which to explore his/her environment safely. Attachment behaviours can be seen as the manifestation of this need that the infant has, as research suggests that a break from a meaningful, emotionally charged lasting relationship will produce highly distressing consequences. ...read more.

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