Bowlby Attachment Theory

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To address the concept of attachment as outlined by John Bowlby (1953), the author shall define attachment theory and behaviour; look at some key influences on Bowlby that led to the development of attachment theory; discuss some key concepts involved and the implications for understanding child and adolescent behaviour. Attachment theory is a psychological theory and a biological drive which has evolved to safeguard the survival of the defenceless young (Prior and Glaser 2006). Proximity to an attachment figure is sought when the child senses threat or discomfort. Attachment behaviour, according to Bowlby, is “a form of behaviour that results in a person attaining or maintaining proximity to some other clearly identified individual who is…show more content…
This essay will now look more specifically at the findings that have emerged which both support and challenge the relevance of Bowlby’s theory. To understand the behaviour of children and adolescence it is crucial to look at Mary Ainsworth’s findings; she showed that Bowlby’s concepts could be empirically tested. Ainsworth provided a stimulus for the immense amount of research that is continuing to develop the theory. Ainsworth’s Strange Situation studies (1970’s), where babies were separated from their mothers and styles of attachment were categorised based on the babies reactions to separation, were central in developing Bowlby’s attachment theory. Depending on the style of attachment, behaviour would be understood and even predicted. Generically Ainsworth classification of attachment styles described infant-caregiver relationships as either secure or insecure; insecure attachment can be further subdivided into either an avoidant/resistant patterns depending on the particular pattern of behaviour displayed by the infant. For individual attachment patterns there is a corresponding caregiving style. The secure type is when an infant seeks protection or comfort from their mother and receives care consistently. The mother is usually found to be loving and affectionate, educating a child to cope with problems in the future. In contrast, punitive rejection and being unavailable is associated with insecure anxious-avoidant attachment. These children view themselves as unlovable and unable to attract care from their parents, and they view others as avenging and impartial to them. They grow to feel less able to explore, feeling unsafe and can often feel they can get attention by meeting needs of others. The mother is usually rated as being inconsistent in their care.
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