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This essay will attempt to provide a brief and up to date summary of attachment theory and research, show how it is linked to Child Abuse, the Family, and Children and Divorce, critically evaluating attachment's predictive value.

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Introduction

The term "attachment" describes "an infant's tendency to seek closeness to particular people and to feel more secure in their presence" (Atkinson et al, 2000, p90). This essay will attempt to provide a brief and up to date summary of attachment theory and research, show how it is linked to Child Abuse, the Family, and Children and Divorce, critically evaluating attachment's predictive value. One of the most influential theories in the history of attachment has been that of John Bowlby developed during a study of the mental health of homeless children for the World Health Organisation in 1951. This proposed a multidisciplinary stance in which psychoanalysis appears to be integrated with paradigms such as ethology's "imprinting" phenomenon and "critical period" (Lorenz (1935) cited in Durkin (2000) p83), cybernetic theory of control systems (Bowlby (1988) p3), social, (Hodges & Tizard (1989)), and cultural psychology (Gnaulati & Heine (2001)). Whereas it seems that Freud and virtually all subsequent analysts had worked from an end-product backwards, whilst agreeing with the importance of the relationship with the mother, Bowlby took the reverse position to understand the origin, function and development of the child's early socio-emotional relations. His early research concluded that the development of a "warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother" Bowlby, (1953) ...read more.

Middle

She also remarks that "the quality of the parent/child relationship at home" can give clues as to whether a child is being abused, further supporting attachment theory but, included in a list of causative factors in abusive families are, "one parent family, unusual family structure, unemployment, low income, low educational attainment and occupational status of parents, marital problems, mental illness, isolation and psychosocial malfunctioning". This telling list could also suggest that abusive behaviour is not necessarily directly related to the abuser's own childhood attachment formation, but perhaps to a change in environmental causes such as lack of social support due to scattered family or merely socio-economic difficulties perhaps due to divorce, redundancy, death of a partner or even due to congenital retardation. The implication that the underlying community dynamic of child abuse is considered to be the breakdown of the family is supported in a seminal British study by Whelan (1993), who confirms that a child is safest from abuse when its biological parents are married and least safe when the mother is cohabiting with a man other than her husband. Fagan et al (1997) reiterates these findings in his American study and finds that research on crime and delinquency in both the U.S. and Britain illustrate similar social trends and relationships between family breakdown and social problems. ...read more.

Conclusion

Whilst attachment types have supplied a predictive formula for characteristics in later life and indeed, claimed some success (Fonagy, Steele and Steele (1991) Hazen and Shaver (1987)), there are many variables involved in individual development apart from the relationship with the primary caregiver. For instance: the biological trajectory, which "may wax and wane at different periods and may differ for different processes" examples given are the adolescent growth spurt and "growing heritability for IQ in adolescence" Wilson (1985); the psychosocial trajectory and "interactional/transactional processes", Scarr and McCartney (1983) and chance encounters or events (Bandura (1982) both cited in Bernstein and Brannen (1996). Reflection on this complexity of variables is indicative of the problems encountered with predictions in individual development and Dunn, (1993) p114, would argue that the use of the attachment framework for predicting relationships in later life is "both limited and limiting". Indeed, it is doubtful whether attachment categorisation would hold true for children with congenital abnormalities and special needs such as autism, which classification alone offers predictive potential in its own right. In retrospect, that attachment categorisation alone can accurately predict a child's circumstances or future appears to be a somewhat of a tenuous claim and raises the question as to whether an attachment construct has any value at all from logical and scientific point of view (Weinraub et al. (1977). www.coursework.info Ainsworth, M.D.S.(1989). Attachments ...read more.

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