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Bowlby's theory of attachment: An Introduction
The Attachment theory by John has acquired wide recognition for perceiving social and emotional growth of children. It has offered a theory on which to shape human perception concerning the pivotal role of the parent-child interaction and its impact on psychological development. The force of attachment theory is not only affecting parenting, however also have a direct bearing on child care policies and practices, with the emphasis for sensitivity in the children – caregiver interaction. The attachment rules are also considered important for the work of social workers, the children and the youths as well the mental health organizations and psychologists (Slater, 205 -219). The growing significance of attachment issues is shown by various citations in government data in various periodicals.
Many parents deciding to use formal childcare services are increasingly noted. There were 13,800 full day care providers operating in 2008, a 77% rise since 2001 and a 2% rise since 2007 (DCSF, 2009). As well, in accordance with the National Statistics (2009) the percentage of 3 and 4-year-olds registered in all schools in Britain have increased from 21% in 1970-71 to 64% in 2007/2008.
The importance of attachment theory is all the time more pertinent and noteworthy and there is an influential body of data which implies that there is a need for useful early year’s programs (NCB, 2007, Childcare Act, 2006). The significance of attachment theory necessitates to be shared with early years’ professionals and those collaborating with young children. The growing knowledge as a result of precautionary programs are assessed to offer a strong database that would help in improved perception, sensitivity and more efficient application of professional skills when dealing with the cognitive development of children.
Nevertheless, there is not a complete historical data on the development of Bowlby’s theories, their scientific operation, and their social effects. Given that Bowlby was an Englishman and spent his whole career in Britain, his mainstream research concentrated on the English perspective. As well, much of the analysis on Bowlby blends a historic arrangement with a defense of his scientific viewpoints. There is however conflicting descriptions of what Bowlby argued and of how his views influenced various domains of social thoughts and practices in many countries of the world.
Attachment Theory: A Literature Review
In view of the effectiveness of various interventions founded on attachment theory, it is useful if the Attachment theory behind such interventions is considered to have value. There are, nevertheless, some major opponents of the attachment theory. Slater (2007:205 -219) suggested that educational psychologists continued to be skeptical regarding the structure and its significance, and some criticize the theory owing to its deterministic nature and mother blaming philosophy.
Quality of attachments
Bowlby (1969) outlined the notion of the ‘internal working model’ (IWM), which offered a system for the organization of attachment behavior. He argued that such a system engaged a cognitive component, mental images of the attachment person, the character and the environment (Bee & Boyd, 2007; Slater, 205 -219). Bowlby claimed that such images are intuitive and start creating late in the children’s in the 1st year of life, and becoming further firm till the age of 5 (Bee & Boyd, 2007). These images created in the human IWMs impact relationships past childhood. Bowlby proposed that children with insecure attachments have diverse IWMs of their interactions with parents and other youths (Bee & Boyd, 2007).
Bowlby’s study was further expanded by Mary Ainsworth who described variations in attachment relationships in her ‘Strange Situation’ (1978), which was designed to observe the development of the infant – mother attachment. The Strange Situation consisted of a series of episodes carried out in a clinic with children aged between 12 and 18 months.
Attachment & Aggression in Relationships
The advocates of attachment theory propose that the couple’s IWM impact their violent behaviors towards each other (Haslem & Erdman, 193-211). In accordance with Bowlby, interpersonal antagonism and dissatisfaction was the children’s endeavor to bring closeness between themselves and the caregivers, or the object that illustrated their requirements for security and safety. Specifically, they applied anger as a method of trying to bring the person nearer. Moreover, he thought that children who involved in these behaviors all over their childhood would ultimately show them into their adulthood in their interpersonal interaction as “intimacy anger” (Haslem & Erdman, 193-211). Bowlby thought that these attachment patterns would also mold the individual’s behavior traits in their life, thus making attachment theory a lifetime developmental model.
A rising number of learning programs are founded on Bowlby’s attachment theory, and the body of research that supports it. It is thus significant to evaluate both its drawbacks and strengths as an academic outline, with the aim of completely understanding the efficiency of its utility and have confidence in the success of the programs which are born out of it.
Bowlby’s original theoretical concepts were discarded by his psychoanalytical cohorts; although in the first book of the attachment trilogy (1969) Bowlby stated that his impact had been psychoanalysis, due to its impact on early relationships and the pathogenic prospects of harms (Bowlby, 1969, xvii). He became isolated in the psychoanalytical people since he was noted as having rejected some vital aspects of psychoanalytical theory (Slater, 205 -219). Nevertheless, psychoanalytical theory did not offer a good theory of unusual development (Cortina & Marrone, 2003), which implied maternal over-gratification to be a risk in childhood which could cause abnormal development.
Thus, Bowlby implied in his subsequent texts, the attachment theory successfully developed psychoanalytical notion and helped its experience with his outline:
‘The resulting conceptual framework is designed to accommodate all those phenomena to which Freud called attention - for example love relations, separation anxiety, mourning, defense, guilt, depression trauma, emotional detachment, sensitive periods in early life – and so to offer an alternative to the traditional Metapsychology of psychoanalysis and to add yet another to the clinical theory now extant’ (Bowlby, 1988, 2).
The attachment theory also is different from the psychoanalytical theories in its account of early child care giving relationships. Bowlby (1958: 350-373) criticized psychoanalysis for emphasizing the contribution of the caregiver in lowering physiological stimulation, and suggested that attachment behavior was consisted of various instinctive responses, that had the working on attaching the child and the mother and concentrated on safeguard and psychological control and security as the primary role for the caregiver. This was new and innovative theoretically at the time (Goldberg, 2000) and although his thoughts created independently, this helped Bowlby’s work more in agreement with psychoanalytical object-relations theories. Moreover, the impact of attachment theory can be as a result of the major change from drive theories to relational theories in psychiatric therapy.
Psychoanalysis should not be censured wholly nevertheless, particularly in view of the fact it framed Bowlby’s initial thoughts, and its inspiration on early life and stress on the fundamental role of mental methods has been significant. Nevertheless, it appeared that its primary criticisms of attachment principles were baseless.
The viewpoint that early knowledge in childhood has a dominant impact on later life has created a disapproval of attachment theory as deterministic, as it implies that a harmful beginning in life give rise to poor life consequences and has a deep impact on adult behavior and behavior (Slater, 205 -219). Nevertheless, new studies of children rose with detrimental formative years experience propose that they can create attachments, although many of them are unsafe and nonconforming (Goldberg, 2000).
Substituting the concept of determinism with a stress on risk and resiliency, Bowlby later applied, may help attachment based, deterrent programs to concentrate on determining risk factors, and improving safety aspects and resiliency in children who are weak.
The stress on the role of the motherly attachments as the critical figures and hence responsible for any achievements and failures of the children, is a further and primary disapproval of attachment. Nevertheless, though Bowlby did emphasize the contribution and the significance of a dependable caregiver in early childhood, he claimed that this did not require being the mother. In spite of this, Bowlby’s theory caused some mothers the feeling of guilt, particularly ones who left their children in the day care and nursery schools. Thus, a longitudinal research into day care environments found no general impacts on attachment safety (Slater, 205 -219). It seemed that Bowlby’s theories may have been misinterpreted or applied to show popular beliefs. The last two British governments have improved pre-schooling, supporting good quality childcare as caring and compulsory for children, and dynamically support the mothers (Elfer, 111- 122). The fast development of children’s centers strengthens the government assurances and viewpoints. In addition, the impact of wider systems and the social-cultural-historical influence may also impact consequences for the child, not just the primary attachment individual in a child’s life.
Sociocultural influence of Attachment
The people are impacted by their close environments and the larger systems. The systems closest to the children are smaller though has more impact over a child’s development. The approach emphasizes analyzing the relationship amongst the various environments and gives the importance of studying how children and their families make changeovers amongst their diverse ecological systems. Rogoff (2003) claimed separation into the nested systems limits the ideas of the relationships between individual and cultural means and hence the model is necessitated developing a consideration of social-cultural historical impacts. The socio-cultural-historical theory suggested by Vygotsky presumed that individual growth must be comprehended, and cannot be split from its socio-cultural historical framework (Rogoff, 2003). In accordance with Vygotsky, people are affected by the types of activities in which they participate and the types of organizations of which they feel right.
Rogoff extended these views to imply that people help in the creation of cultural processes, hence they mutually represent. Bowlby’s theory implies that images created in the human ‘internal working model’ affecting interactions past the childhood is thus a narrow view which is unsuccessful to consider environmental and historical aspects.
Criticisms of Attachment Theory
Bowlby’s attachment theory implies that developmental changes were restricted to the first few years of life and caused an assumption that attachment patterns could not alter (Bee & Boyd, 2007). This caused a distinctive disparity between the theory of attachment as an influential notion and the true perception of what happens to attachment past the formative years of children.
As well, data concerning the strength of attachment have not realized reliable conclusions (Hooper, 217 – 223). When the child’s family surroundings or lifestyles are steady the attachment generally keeps stable (Bee & Boyd, 2007). It is also notable that attachment style and IWM can be consistent as well as inconsistent. For a number of people, attachment style can continue to be consistent all over the childhood and adulthood, whereas for others they can be altered conditional on the individual experience.
The notion of attachments maintaining stability is rather vague. Many programs and strategies supporting more receptiveness and sensitivity from the care givers would consequently be useless, as a result of this presumption.
Implications & applications of Attachment Theory
Firstly the most direct impact of Bowlby’s attachment theory was on the model of residential care for children. The attachment outline has also been useful to understand the problems that children experience when having various parents in childhood and the impacts of loss for a child when having faced parental divorce and family collapse. Attachment theory has also been useful in the medical field to appreciate the role of relationship problems in a wide variety of disorders, particularly conduct syndrome.
Moreover, the Bowlby’s attachment theory and has helped to shape many interventions. The mainstream attachment programs have been performed by the parents of young children and concentrate on care giving and caregiver responsiveness, and the determinants of the children’s attachment. Some research analyses consist of direct interaction with children, either individually or with the caregivers.
Generally, it can be concluded that Bowlby’s Attachment Theory though outmoded have continued to be applied through the decades and still impacts child rearing and care giving decisions. Moreover, Bowlby’s theory and primary parental care have remained popular within the family units all over the world, despite the fact recognition of various attachments and the quality of child care are now emphasized in the primary care givers proximity.
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