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It emphasises the role of ‘cupboard love’ so is subject to the same criticisms as the psychodynamic theory. Also if the theory were correct you would expect the attachment process to be gradual and steady whereas the stage of specific attachment and the accompanying separation protest occur suddenly. This suggests attachment is thereby a maturational rather than learning process.
Later learning theorists have emphasised the role of attention and affection rather than food as a positive reinforce which has more support but doesn’t get over the criticism of suddenness.
Although support for this theory is that it recognises the influence of interaction on attachment. However it fails to recognise natures influence on attachment as supported by Harlow. A third explanation of attachment is Bowlby’s evolutionary theory, which is based around the evolutionary perspective that attachment serves to promote survival.
Bowlby suggested that babies are born with social releasers e. g. crying and smiling which release a social response in adults.
Attachment behaviour is therefore reciprocal as the carers are programmed to respond to the infants needs. Bowlby also said that attachment occurs at around 7 months because it is synchronised with crawling, as before that the infant is unable to move away from their carer.
The bond with the main carer was also proposed to be special and different from all other attachments – the concept of monotropy. The first attachment serving as an internal working model for all future relationships and the attachment figure acting as a secure base from which the infant can explore.
Bowlby’s theory implies that poor attachment results in reduced exploration and poor development and also that the consequences of poor attachment are dire and possibly irreversible.
This theory formed the basis of a large body of research into the care of children having important practical applications, for example, a positive change in the attitudes towards infant care and improving childcare practices. However correlations between the qualities of a child’s various relationships are actually quite low (Main and Weston 1981) so attachment isn’t necessarily the template for future relationships. Where a positive correlation does exist it may simply be because some infants are better at forming relationships as supported by the temperament hypothesis.
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