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In this essay I will be looking at two theories of attachment, “an intense emotional relationship… enduring over time and in which prolonged separation… is accompanied by stress and sorrow” (Kagan et al 1982). I will also attempt to evaluate the statement from Bowlby ’58, where he says that “Mother love in infancy is as important for mental health as are vitamins and protein for physical health”. The two attachment theories I will be looking at are Bowlby’s 1953 Monotrophy Theory and Freud’s Psychoanalytical Theory. Bowlby initially argued that attachment is an adaptive behaviour due to the human instinct to survive.
Infants are born with a predisposition to survive and therefore have to form an attachment in order to gain food, warmth and protection etc. In order for this interaction to take place, the infant is born with Innate Social Releasers that prompt care-giving from the parent through releasers such as crying and cooing etc. Infants also need to form attachments in order to have a “secure base” from which to explore the world around them. This can be seen in securely attached infants, who are happy to explore an unfamiliar room, as long as the person with whom they have their “primary bond” is present (Strange Situation- Ainsworth and Bell 1970).
Bowlby described this primary bond as “Monotrophy”, meaning turning towards one person. He recognised that this bond doesn’t always form with the biological mother, just the primary care giver. Adults also have a predisposition to care and be responsive to their offspring, as the survival of the infant into adulthood ensures the continuation of their genetic line. Therefore the have an innate response to the infants’ social releasers. Bowlby suggested that infants have a Critical Period, up to 2 1/2 years, for attachments to form.
If attachments were not made by this age, it would not be possible for the child to form any attachment and the child would suffer long-term, permanent emotional damage, particularly in the formation of lasting adult relationships. This is due to the “Internal Working Model” according to Bowlby and later by Bretherton and Waters (1985) who said that “secure children have developed a positive working model of themselves, based on their feelings of security derived from having a sensitive, emotionally responsive and supportive primary care-giver”.
It is therefore said that avoidant children have a rejecting, unresponsive caregiver, resulting in a negative working model of themselves. He also developed the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis, where he claimed that infants who were unable to develop attachments would grow up having problems with relationships and have a higher chance of behavioural disorders. This hypothesis was supported by other psychologists such as Spitz and Wolf (1946) and Robertson and Robertson (1971). An alternative theory of attachment is the Psychosexual theory put forward by Freud.
He said there are five stages of development a child goes through: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital. The stage that deals with attachment is the oral stage, which occurs from birth to about 18 months. Freud thought that during this time the infant is driven by the “Pleasure Principle”. This is caused by the development of the “Id”, the first component of the personality to develop. The “Id” demands instant gratification and in the oral stage, gratification comes through the mouth.
The drive for oral satisfaction is vital at this age as the attention is focused on food and thus, survival. There are three parts to this stage of development: the drive for oral gratification that results in an uncomfortable feeling, so the infant cries. He is then fed, and the drive is reduced and the uncomfortable feeling, hunger, is gone. This is experienced as pleasure. Therefore the attachment is made with the person who offers the gratification and pleasure. Although at first glance, the two theories are very different, when analysed, similarities can be drawn.
They both suggest stages the infant must go through in order to develop into a stable adult. Bowlby says that no infantile attachment leads to problems in adult relationships and Freud says that an unsuccessful transition through any of the five stages will result in regression in later life, for example a child with an oral fixation will suck his thumb, chew pen tops and in later life smoke. Both of these points are true to a certain degree, as there as been countless studies about children who have had maternal deprivation in early infancy and grown up into maladjusted adults.
However it is difficult to be able to pinpoint exactly what is the cause of an adults’ maladjusted behaviour as there may be numerous reasons, which cannot be reduced to maternal deprivation alone. One major difference between these theories is that while Bowlby recognises that the primary bond doesn’t have to be with the mother, Freuds’ theory is dependant on the mother or wet nurse. This could lead to implications when trying to apply Freud’s theory today, as many infants are not breast-fed at all.
Bowlby’s theory was very well received in the UK when it was published, as it came just after the second world war, when women were being encouraged to go back to the home and their children, so the men could return to the jobs in the factories etc. His theory gave the government something by which to almost force the women home, as the threat of a maladjusted child, due to your absence, was more than most women wanted to deal with. It was also one of the most important and influential pieces of psychological work of that century.