Basic Theoretical Premises of Theory
Attachment theory explains the dynamics of long-term relationships, especially those between infants and their caregivers. The theory explains the response between two loved ones. Attachment in infants involves the closeness they seek for a caregiver when in trouble expecting that they will be protected from it. When a person’s attachment caregiver is not reliably available and supportive, proximity seeking fails to relieve distress and the likelihood of later emotional problems increases. Bowlby’s idea was that this tie — which he called attachment — was a biologically based desire for proximity with an evolutionary base. Attachment behavior is instinctually based behavior that keeps a baby close to its mother, and that promotes survival. Most fundamentally, attachment behavior protects babies from predators by keeping them close to protective adults. Signaling (e. g. smiling, vocalizing) draws the attachment figure nearby showing interest in interaction. Aversive (e. g. crying) brings the mother close to stop distress. Approaching/following actively move the child to the mother. As child grows, mother provides support where needed, and promotes autonomy where possible. Always available as the secure base. or attachment theory, the primacy of attachment does not show the priority of connection over survival. Attachment itself has a survival function. It ensures the child will get help when in danger and build life skills during safe times.
Theories view of Development and Developmental Problems
Bowlby made three key propositions about attachment theory. First, he suggested that when children are raised with confidence that their primary caregiver will be available to them, they are less likely to experience fear than those who are raised without such conviction. Secondly, he believed that this confidence is forged during a critical period of development, during the years of infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and that the expectations that are formed during that period tend to remain unchanged for the rest of the person’s life. Finally, he suggested that these expectations that are formed are directly tied to actual experience. In other words, children develop expectations that their caregivers will be responsive to their needs because, in their experience, their caregivers have been responsive in the past. The basic motivation for the attachment theory to maintain closeness to another person.
In this way, by around age 3 attachment styles become internalized and generalized into what Bowlby, in his later work, called “internal working models” — unconscious inner schemas that are applied to experience. As noted in Chapter 1, one of Bowlby’s primary motives in developing attachment theory was to align psychoanalytic theory more closely to scientific findings and perspectives from related disciplines, such as ethology and cognitive psychology. In this way, he believed, he could reform psychoanalysis and preserve the insights it offered, while modifying those formulations that he viewed as untenable and based on outmoded perspectives that needed to be replaced. Bowlby cites the following passage from Klein’s writings: Some children who, although good feeders, are not markedly greedy, show unmistakable signs of love and of a developing interest in the mother at very early stages — an attitude which contains some essential elements of an object-relation. I have seen babies as young as three weeks interrupt their sucking for a short time to play with the mother’s breast or to look towards her face. I have also observed that young infants — even as early as in the second month — would in wakeful periods after the feeding lie on the mother’s lap, look up at her, listen to her voice and respond to it by their facial expression; it was like a loving conversation between mother and baby. Such behavior implies that gratification is as much related to the object, which gives the food as to the food itself.
Bowlby also notes Freud’s flirtations—and they are only flirtations that are not developed further—with the idea that the infant’s attachment to mother may be independent of both hunger reduction and pleasures from erogenous zones. As we have seen in Chapter 8, Freud (refers to the “affectionate current” that is directed to “members of the family and those who look after the child” and “corresponds to the child’s primary object choice” The first 3 years are a very sensitive period for attachment, the pre-attachment phase is Birth to 6 weeks. During this time the baby’s innate signals attract the caregiver (gasping, crying, smiling) Babies recognize the mothers smell, voice and face, but they are not attached to the mother, they don’t mind being left with unfamiliar adults. The attachment in the making phase is from 6 weeks to 8 months, the infant responds differently to familiar caregiver then to strangers. The infant learns that her actions affect the behavior of those around and begin to develop a “sense of trust” where they expect that the caregiver will respond when signaled. The clear-cut attachment phase from 6-8 months to 18 months to 2 years, babies display separation anxiety, the child shows distress when the mother leaves but if the caregiver is supportive and sensitive then the anxiety is short lived. Finally, the formation of reciprocal relationship is 18 months to 2 years on. A toddler is able to understand some of the factors that influence parent’s coming and going and to predict their return and depends less on the caregiver and realizes they will return when the child needs them.
There are four different styles of attachment, secure, avoidant resistant, avoidant insecure and disorganized/disoriented attachment. Secure attachment is when the baby is upset when the caregiver leaves and happy when the caregiver is back, avoids strangers if caregiver is not there but ok with strangers when caregiver is present. Insecure resistant is when there is a lot of trouble when separation happens, and fears strangers and clings to their caregiver and rejects the caregiver when returning. The caregiver’s behavior is inconsistent, and the child feels angry and confused. The insecure avoidant is not concerned with the mother’s absence and unresponsive to the caregiver when returning and is strongly avoidant of the caregiver and the stranger. The caregiver’s behavior is unresponsive, and the child feels unloved or rejected. The disorganized insecure attachment means that the baby has no consistent way of dealing with the stress. They show great insecurity and show confused behavior. When the caregiver tries to look at them they look away, this is common in abused children.
The Strange Situation Experiment was when Ainsworth and Bell worked to show the quality of the attachments. They had caregivers leave their children and come back and recorded the behavior and relationship of the child vs the caregiver. Since attachment poses that a child’s relationship to a primary caregiver serves as a critical role in the child’s psychological development, the theory implies that complications in development (psychopathology) can be attributed to problems with the child-caregiver relationship.
Compatibility with the Emphases and Values of Social Work
Attachment theory meets the values and ethics of the NASW Code of Ethics. Competence is a value in the NASW Code of Ethics where Social workers increase their professional experience or knowledge in different areas called Integrity of the profession. Research shows that the years after Ainsworth’s Strange Situation was proposed, Mary Main and colleagues provided a way to study the intergenerational transmission of attachment patterns. They and other researchers found that a parent’s “state of mind with respect to attachment” predicted his or her infant’s pattern of attachment. Moreover, since the 1980’s there has been an explosion of research examining attachment processes beyond the parent-child dyad (e. g. , in adult romantic relationships), which has supported Bowlby’s belief that attachment is a process that characterizes humans “from the cradle to the grave”.
In the present article, space limitations lead us to focus principally on attachment processes early in life and consider the adult attachment literature in relation to parental predictors of infant attachment. Researchers have examined connections between caregiving experiences and infant stress physiology by comparing infants’ cortisol levels before and after a stressful task (ex: The Strange Situation). For example, Nachmias, Gunnar, Mangelsdorf, Parittiz and Buss (1996) found that inhibited toddlers who were insecurely attached to their caregivers exhibited elevated cortisol levels following exposure to novel stimuli. There is also experimental evidence that mothers’ touch buffers infants’ cortisol stress response (in this case, during the still-face laboratory procedure in which mothers are asked to cease interacting emotionally with their infants).
Another way attachment theory meets the expectations of the ethics and values of social work is by promoting social diversity. For example, the belief that attachment is related to anxiety on separation. This may not be the case in other cultures, (such as Japan. ) Many studies have biased samples which cannot claim to be representative of each culture (36 participants in the study). Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg reported that differences in attachment within a culture are far greater than those found between cultures. They conclude that it is wrong to think of everyone in a culture having the same practices. Within a culture there are many sub-cultures, all with their own way of rearing children.