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Attachment theory Essay

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Attachment is an important factor in a childs life. It makes them feel safe and secure. ‘The infant’s tendency to seek the closeness to particular people and to feel more secure in their presence.’ (Erikson 1976) I think that when Erikson made this statement, what he was actually saying was that an attachment is when a child is more comfortable in a setting if they are with the people they are closest to and the people that they like to be with and seek attention of these people more than others.

‘Attachment is like a piece of invisible string that binds individuals in a way that allows a healthy development’ (psychology for AS level). This statement in my opinion states that an attachment which forms a bond between the people involved is important for good development for the child. What happens if there isn’t a bond or an attachment in the child’s life? I am going to look into three different psychologists theories on attachment and see what their opinions on the subject are.

The first psychologist I am looking into is Bowlby. Bowlby had very strong opinions on attachment and the long term affects a lack of a bond or attachment can have on a child’s life. Bowlby believed that a child should form one and only one strong attachment which should be with the mother of the child. This is known as monotrophy. The father in Bowlby’s eyes was there for the making of the baby only and would show no input or importance in the child’s upbringing.

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Bowlby came to the conclusion that children who failed to form this bond with their mother in the first three years of the child’s life would have problems in later life bonding with people and trusting people. He also described a child with a lack of bonding to be an affectionless psychopath, which he described to be someone who shows lack of guilt when done something wrong has difficulties showing emotion to things around them or someone with behaviour problems. Another affect of not having an attachment in this critical period as it was also known in Bowlby’s eyes was development retardation which meant the child may grow up with learning difficulties or slower intellectual skills.

The next psychologist I am going to discuss is Mary Ainsworth. Ainsworth investigated bonding and broke it down into different sections. She broke it down it to three different types of attachment. These were secure attachments, anxious – avoidant attachments and anxious – resistant attachments. Secure attachments were described as the strongest of the three. This is where the children know they are loved and cared for and they feel secure with the person they have bonded to. When they are left without their attachment figure for the first time they will show lots of distress and upset. However after time they will get used to being left and they will not be as distressed as time go’s on.

Anxious – avoidant attachment is not as strong as the secure attachment and the bond it weaker. These children seem more independent and can manage small tasks on their own. This may be due to a change in the attachment figures attitude or behaviour towards the child which may be caused by death or separation from a partner. This can also be caused by separation from child and attachment figure due to illness or separation at birth. This attachment is usually weaker because of the lack of full trust from either party. Anxious – resistant attachment is similar to anxious – avoidant attachment but the child often is more clingy and seeks more attention to people as well as the attachment figure but when people tries to comfort them they will often not accept the comfort.

The last psychologists I am going to look at are Shaffer and Emerson. Shaffer and Emerson’s theory is the one Ainsworth used to conclude her investigations. They looked more at children with multiple attachments which contradicts Bowlby’s theory which said only one strong attachment can be made. They broke their findings down in to four sections. These sections are Asocial stage which is children of 0-2, the indiscriminate stage, children of 2-7 months, specific stage which is children of 7 months plus and then finally multiple attachment.

Asocial stage is described to be where the children aged 0-2 months will respond to human faces but will not show any main distress towards whom it is they are with. This means that if you placed a 0-2 month baby in a day care setting then they will not really kick much of a fuss when their mother leaves them they will usually be happy and content as long as they are getting some attention. On my placement while I was working in the 0-2 room the youngest child there at the time was only 6 weeks old she would come to nursery with no hassle every day after her nap she would sometimes cry a little bit until she got some attention. She was happy when her mum came to get her but she didn’t cry for her when she wasn’t there. Where as one of the oldest children who was nearly 18 months used to cry for her mum nearly all day, she only seemed happy when she was eating.

The indiscriminate stage is for children from 2 month up until 7 month. These children are more aware of what is happening and they know who they prefer to spend time with usually in most cases it is the main care giver, but they will still be ok and not too worried around strangers and unknown faces. The specific stage is where one strong attachment is clear and the child becomes very weary and anxious around unknown people. This is usually why when a child over 7 months is brought into a child care setting, they take a while to settle and cry for their carer.

Multiple attachments are where the child is close to or has an attachment with more than one person. This is often when they spend a lot of time with these people as well as their care givers. These people can include grand parents, extended family, neighbours and realistically people who they spend a lot of time with and they feel safe around. As some of the theorists mentioned above said they would be distress when a child was left or was separated from their attachment figure its is important that children get used to a setting before being brought and left alone. In some child care setting they hold visits for the children where they can come with their attachment figure and see the setting and play with the other children to see what it is like and to get to know the care workers faces first.

In my placement they do this over a period of 6 visits(longer if child is very unsettled) to avoid too much stress and upset for the new children coming to nursery each time a visit takes place the attachment figure will stay a little bit less than the time before leaving the child with the other children and care givers. This way they feel that the child gets used to not having their mother there all the time and also gets to know the other people in the setting and environment. Another way the children help settle in the nurseries or child care setting is they are allowed to bring with them a transitional object with them to comfort them when they get upset.

One child in my placement had a pink cushion which she has all the time when she is upset. When she settles down she often puts it down a leaves it on the floor, at this point the care worker picks it up discreetly and puts it in her box. They do this because they feel if she is playing nice and contently then she see’s the cushion she will pick it up and carry it round again where as if it is out of the way the child will hopefully play for a longer amount of time. The child gets it back if she asks for it or if she becomes distressed on upset in anyway.

In my placement to avoid too much stress and upset for the new children coming to nursery, they have an induction period. This is where the child will come in to the nursery with their parent to have a look around, meet the staff and the other children in the setting. The child gets to play with the toys and will start to get used to the setting so when its time for their parent to leave then it won’t be so distressing.

When a child is in the setting some of the parents come and visit the child during lunch time or if they get a break at work. This was good for some children as it reassured the children that their parents were coming back for them and they hadn’t just left them forever. For some children however this was not beneficial and the situation was more distressing for them having to say bye to their carer all over again.

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