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Bolwbys theory of attachment Essay

Outline and Evaluate Bowlby’s Evolutionary Theory of Attachment. (12mark) Attachment can be described using two theories, one being Bowlby’s attachment theory which is based on an evolutionary perspective. The theory suggests that evolution has produced a behaviour that is essential to the survival to allow the passing on of genes. An infant that keeps close to their mother is more likely to survive. The traits that lead to that attachment will be naturally selected.

Bowlby has the idea that attachment has evolved and it is innate as it increases the likelihood of survival and reproduction, he suggests that children are already born with this innate drive and that they were born to perform these behaviours and born to attain attachment. To enhance the survival of their offspring caregiving is also adaptive and we are born to care for our children. He suggests that infants were born with social releasers (for example: crying/smiling) which encourage caregiving.

Bowlby also suggests that there is a best time to form an attachment, this is called the sensitive period where infants are most sensitive to development of attachments and Bowlby would suggest that this is when the child is 3-6 months old. However, attachment can still take place at other times but it becomes increasingly difficult. Attachment acts as a secure base for exploration, which influences independence rather than dependence. Bowlby argues that infants form a single special attachment with one particular attachment figure, usually the mother.

This is called monotropy. Other attachments may develop in a hierarchy. An infant may therefore have a primary monotropy attachment to its mother, and below her the hierarchy of attachments might include its father, siblings, grandparents, etc. Another key feature of Bowlby’s theory is that the infant develops an internal working model of relationships that guides relationship behaviour as an older child and an adult. This leads to the continuity hypothesis and the view that there is a link between the early attachment and later emotional behaviour.

A strength of this theory is that research appears to suggest that once the sensitive period has passed it is difficult to form attachments. Hodges and Tizard (1989) found that children who have formed no attachments had later difficulties with their peers. This therefore supports Bowlby’s concept of a sensitive period during which infants are most sensitive to the development of attachments. Another strength is that if attachment did evolve as Bowlby suggests then we would expect attachment and caregiving to be universal.

Tronick et all (1992) studied an African family tribe where infants were fed by different women but slept with their own mother at night. However, despite this, after six months the children all still showed one primary attachment. This supports the view that we are born to attain attachment because attachment and caregiving are universal and not influenced by different cultures. Finally, Bowlby suggested that infants form multiple attachments which then form a hierarchy and there is much evidence to support this. The study by Schaffer and Emerson also found that most infants have many attachments.

They reported that there was little relationship between time spent together and attachment. This suggests that it is the quality of caregiving rather than the quantity of it. This supports Bowlby’s theory because it goes against the Learning theory as the learning theory suggests that food is the main key to developing an attachment. A weakness of this theory is the multiple attachment model as this model suggests that there are no primary and secondary attachments but instead they are all integrated into one single model.

Grossman and Grossman researched infant-father attachment and found that there is a key role for the father’s in social development. This is a criticism because Grossman and Grossman are suggesting that there is not one particular figure as Bowlby suggests but that fathers and mothers both play a role in the development of a child and therefore they both are as important as each other. Another weakness includes the internal working model as according to Bowlby it is expected that children form similar attachments with all people because they are working from the same model.

Lamb (1977) found that some children form secure relationships with their mothers and insecure relationships with their fathers. This suggests that there is more to attachment than just a sensitive response to a social releaser. Kagan (1984) found that children have an innate temperament, e. g. easy going or difficult, that influences early attachments with their caregivers and later relationships when they are adults. This is called temperament hypothesis. This means that attachments form as a result of temperament not an innate gene for attachment.

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