The main person linked with the Attachment Theory is John Bowlby (1907-1990). He describes attachment as being a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” He was a psychoanalyst who linked mental health and behavioural issues, with early childhood care, he believed that children and babies have evolved with a basic need to stay connected, in order to ensure their survival. The primary attachment (normally maternal) provides a blueprint for future relationships. If this attachment is not there or is disrupted, then the child does not feel secure.
Main Points of Bowlby’s Theory, according to McLeod (2007), are:
In 1964 Schaffer & Emerson contended that specific attachments started at 8 months and then they quickly expand the number of people that they are attached to. Rutter (1978) noted that children reacted to the departure of a number of beings as well as inanimate objects.
Mary Ainsworth researched this area in the 1970’s, she described three main styles of attachment:
Disorganised-insecure attachment was added on by further research by Main & Solomon (1986). The child may present as confused and avoid parents. This has been linked with inconsistent behaviours in ‘parents’ and this makes the child feel unsure about the response they will receive.
Some contributory factors are:
Attachment is believed to be influential on the individuals life, secure attachment leads to better self esteem and better coping skills, meaning that they can achieve more in life, form positive relationships and suffer less from mental health issues.
Weisner & Gallimore (1977), Van Ljzendoorn & Tavecchio (1987) argue that the primary figure is not always the mother. In some societies, it is the whole village approach.
I know that this research sounds frightening if you are attempting to parent a child with an attachment disorder. Please see the practical advice page!
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bowlby, J. (1951). Maternal Care and Mental Health. World Health Organization Monograph.
Bowlby, J. (1953). Child Care and the Growth of Love. London: Penguin Books.
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and Loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books.
Cherry, K (. Attachment Theory: The importance of Early Emotional Bonds. http://psychology.about.com
Attachment & Reactive Attachment Disorders (http://www.helpguide.org)
McLeod S (2007),John Bowlby | Maternal Deprivation Theory – Simply Psychology
Schaffer, H. R. & Emerson, P. E. (1964). The development of social attachments in infancy. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 29, 94.