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Research Paper on Child Development and Attachment Theory

Attachment Theories

❶How are representational and physiological processes linked and how do they influence each other and affect child functioning?

Adult Attachment Theory and Research

A Simple Model of Infant-Mother Attachment
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This internal working model is related to the individual's state of mind which develops with respect to attachment generally and explores how attachment functions in relationship dynamics based on childhood and adolescent experience.

The organization of an internal working model is generally seen as leading to more stable attachments in those who develop such a model, rather than those who rely more on the individual's state of mind alone in forming new attachments.

Age, cognitive growth, and continued social experience advance the development and complexity of the internal working model. Attachment-related behaviours lose some characteristics typical of the infant-toddler period and take on age-related tendencies. The preschool period involves the use of negotiation and bargaining. Ideally, these social skills become incorporated into the internal working model to be used with other children and later with adult peers.

As children move into the school years at about six years old, most develop a goal-corrected partnership with parents, in which each partner is willing to compromise in order to maintain a gratifying relationship. Generally, a child is content with longer separations, provided contact—or the possibility of physically reuniting, if needed—is available. Attachment behaviours such as clinging and following decline and self-reliance increases.

By middle childhood ages 7—11 , there may be a shift toward mutual coregulation of secure-base contact in which caregiver and child negotiate methods of maintaining communication and supervision as the child moves toward a greater degree of independence. Attachment theory was extended to adult romantic relationships in the late s by Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver.

Four styles of attachment have been identified in adults: These roughly correspond to infant classifications: Securely attached adults tend to have positive views of themselves, their partners and their relationships. They feel comfortable with intimacy and independence, balancing the two. Anxious-preoccupied adults seek high levels of intimacy, approval and responsiveness from partners, becoming overly dependent. They tend to be less trusting, have less positive views about themselves and their partners, and may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry and impulsiveness in their relationships.

Dismissive-avoidant adults desire a high level of independence, often appearing to avoid attachment altogether. They view themselves as self-sufficient, invulnerable to attachment feelings and not needing close relationships. They tend to suppress their feelings, dealing with conflict by distancing themselves from partners of whom they often have a poor opinion.

Fearful-avoidant adults have mixed feelings about close relationships, both desiring and feeling uncomfortable with emotional closeness. They tend to mistrust their partners and view themselves as unworthy. Like dismissive-avoidant adults, fearful-avoidant adults tend to seek less intimacy, suppressing their feelings. Sexually, securely attached individuals are less likely to be involved in one-night stands or sexual activity outside of the primary relationship, and more likely to report mutual initiation and enjoyment of sex.

Dismissive-avoidant individuals tend to report activities reflecting low psychological intimacy one-night sex, extra-dyadic sex, sex without love , as well as less enjoyment of physical contact. Research has demonstrated that for both sexes, insecure-ambivalent attachment was related to enjoyment of holding and caressing, but not of more clearly sexual behaviors.

Relationally, insecure individuals tend to be partnered with insecure individuals, and secure individuals with secure individuals. Insecure relationships tend to be enduring but less emotionally satisfying compared to the relationship s of two securely attached individuals. Attachment styles are activated from the first date onwards and impact relationship dynamics and how a relationship ends.

Secure attachment has been shown to allow for better conflict resolution in a relationship and for ones ability to exit an unsatisfying relationship compared to other attachment types. Secure individuals authentic high self-esteem and positive view of others allows for this as they are confident that they will find another relationship. Secure attachment has also shown to allow for the successful processing of relational losses e. Two main aspects of adult attachment have been studied.

The organization and stability of the mental working models that underlie the attachment styles is explored by social psychologists interested in romantic attachment.

The organization of mental working models is more stable while the individual's state of mind with respect to attachment fluctuates more. Some authors have suggested that adults do not hold a single set of working models. Instead, on one level they have a set of rules and assumptions about attachment relationships in general. On another level they hold information about specific relationships or relationship events. Information at different levels need not be consistent. Individuals can therefore hold different internal working models for different relationships.

There are a number of different measures of adult attachment, the most common being self-report questionnaires and coded interviews based on the Adult Attachment Interview. The various measures were developed primarily as research tools, for different purposes and addressing different domains, for example romantic relationships, platonic relationships, parental relationships or peer relationships. Some classify an adult's state of mind with respect to attachment and attachment patterns by reference to childhood experiences, while others assess relationship behaviours and security regarding parents and peers.

The early thinking of the object relations school of psychoanalysis , particularly Melanie Klein , influenced Bowlby. However, he profoundly disagreed with the prevalent psychoanalytic belief that infants' responses relate to their internal fantasy life rather than real-life events. As Bowlby formulated his concepts, he was influenced by case studies on disturbed and delinquent children, such as those of William Goldfarb published in and He and Bowlby collaborated in making the documentary film A Two-Year Old Goes to the Hospital which was instrumental in a campaign to alter hospital restrictions on visits by parents.

In his monograph for the World Health Organization , Maternal Care and Mental Health , Bowlby put forward the hypothesis that "the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment", the lack of which may have significant and irreversible mental health consequences.

This was also published as Child Care and the Growth of Love for public consumption. The central proposition was influential but highly controversial. Over time, orphanages were abandoned in favour of foster care or family-style homes in most developed countries. Following the publication of Maternal Care and Mental Health , Bowlby sought new understanding from the fields of evolutionary biology, ethology, developmental psychology , cognitive science and control systems theory.

He formulated the innovative proposition that mechanisms underlying an infant's emotional tie to the caregiver s emerged as a result of evolutionary pressure. He set out to develop a theory of motivation and behaviour control built on science rather than Freud's psychic energy model.

Bowlby argued that with attachment theory he had made good the "deficiencies of the data and the lack of theory to link alleged cause and effect" of Maternal Care and Mental Health. Bowlby's attention was first drawn to ethology when he read Konrad Lorenz 's publication in draft form although Lorenz had published earlier work.

After recognition comes a tendency to follow. Certain types of learning are possible, respective to each applicable type of learning, only within a limited age range known as a critical period.

Bowlby's concepts included the idea that attachment involved learning from experience during a limited age period, influenced by adult behaviour. He did not apply the imprinting concept in its entirety to human attachment. However, he considered that attachment behaviour was best explained as instinctive, combined with the effect of experience, stressing the readiness the child brings to social interactions.

Psychoanalytic concepts influenced Bowlby's view of attachment, in particular, the observations by Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham of young children separated from familiar caregivers during World War II. He called this the " cupboard-love " theory of relationships. In his view it failed to see attachment as a psychological bond in its own right rather than an instinct derived from feeding or sexuality. Bowlby instead posited that several lines of development were possible, the outcome of which depended on the interaction between the organism and the environment.

In attachment this would mean that although a developing child has a propensity to form attachments, the nature of those attachments depends on the environment to which the child is exposed. From early in the development of attachment theory there was criticism of the theory's lack of congruence with various branches of psychoanalysis.

Bowlby's decisions left him open to criticism from well-established thinkers working on similar problems. The philosopher Kenneth Craik had noted the ability of thought to predict events.

He stressed the survival value of natural selection for this ability. This internal working model allows a person to try out alternatives mentally, using knowledge of the past while responding to the present and future. Bowlby applied Craik's ideas to attachment, when other psychologists were applying these concepts to adult perception and cognition.

An infant 's internal working model is developed in response to the infant's experience of the outcomes of his or her proximity-seeking behaviors.

If the caregiver is accepting of these proximity-seeking behaviors and grants access, the infant develops a secure organization; if the caregiver consistently denies the infant access, an avoidant organization develops; and if the caregiver inconsistently grants access, an ambivalent organization develops.

A parent 's internal working model that is operative in the attachment relationship with her infant can be accessed by examining the parent's mental representations. In the s, problems with viewing attachment as a trait stable characteristic of an individual rather than as a type of behaviour with organising functions and outcomes, led some authors to the conclusion that attachment behaviours were best understood in terms of their functions in the child's life.

Selection of the secure pattern is found in the majority of children across cultures studied. This follows logically from the fact that attachment theory provides for infants to adapt to changes in the environment, selecting optimal behavioural strategies. Securely attached Gusii infants anticipate and seek this contact.

There are also differences in the distribution of insecure patterns based on cultural differences in child-rearing practices. The biggest challenge to the notion of the universality of attachment theory came from studies conducted in Japan where the concept of amae plays a prominent role in describing family relationships.

Arguments revolved around the appropriateness of the use of the Strange Situation procedure where amae is practiced. Ultimately research tended to confirm the universality hypothesis of attachment theory. Critics in the s such as J. Harris , Steven Pinker and Jerome Kagan were generally concerned with the concept of infant determinism nature versus nurture , stressing the effects of later experience on personality.

Kagan argued that heredity was far more important than the transient developmental effects of early environment. For example, a child with an inherently difficult temperament would not elicit sensitive behavioural responses from a caregiver. The debate spawned considerable research and analysis of data from the growing number of longitudinal studies. Subsequent research has not borne out Kagan's argument, possibly suggesting that it is the caregiver's behaviours that form the child's attachment style, although how this style is expressed may differ with the child's temperament.

Rudolph Schaffer concluded that parents and peers had different functions, fulfilling distinctive roles in children's development. Mentalization, or theory of mind, is the capacity of human beings to guess with some accuracy what thoughts, emotions and intentions lie behind behaviours as subtle as facial expression. Object relations models which emphasise the autonomous need for a relationship have become dominant and are linked to a growing recognition within psychoanalysis of the importance of infant development in the context of relationships and internalized representations.

Psychoanalysis has recognized the formative nature of a child's early environment including the issue of childhood trauma. A psychoanalytically based exploration of the attachment system and an accompanying clinical approach has emerged together with a recognition of the need for measurement of outcomes of interventions.

One focus of attachment research has been the difficulties of children whose attachment history was poor, including those with extensive non-parental child care experiences. Concern with the effects of child care was intense during the so-called "day care wars" of the lateth century, during which some authors stressed the deleterious effects of day care.

Although only high-quality child care settings are likely to provide this, more infants in child care receive attachment-friendly care than in the past. The English and Romanian Adoptees Study Team, led by Michael Rutter , followed some of the children into their teens, attempting to unravel the effects of poor attachment, adoption, new relationships, physical problems and medical issues associated with their early lives.

Studies of these adoptees, whose initial conditions were shocking, yielded reason for optimism as many of the children developed quite well. Researchers noted that separation from familiar people is only one of many factors that help to determine the quality of development.

Authors considering attachment in non-Western cultures have noted the connection of attachment theory with Western family and child care patterns characteristic of Bowlby's time.

For example, changes in attitudes toward female sexuality have greatly increased the numbers of children living with their never-married mothers or being cared for outside the home while the mothers work. This social change has made it more difficult for childless people to adopt infants in their own countries. There has been an increase in the number of older-child adoptions and adoptions from third-world sources in first-world countries.

Adoptions and births to same-sex couples have increased in number and gained legal protection, compared to their status in Bowlby's time.

Principles of attachment theory have been used to explain adult social behaviours, including mating, social dominance and hierarchical power structures, in-group identification, [] group coalitions, and negotiation of reciprocity and justice.

While a wide variety of studies have upheld the basic tenets of attachment theory, research has been inconclusive as to whether self-reported early attachment and later depression are demonstrably related. In addition to longitudinal studies, there has been psychophysiological research on the biology of attachment. In psychophysiological research on attachment, the two main areas studied have been autonomic responses , such as heart rate or respiration, and the activity of the hypothalamic—pituitary—adrenal axis.

Infants' physiological responses have been measured during the Strange Situation procedure looking at individual differences in infant temperament and the extent to which attachment acts as a moderator. There is some evidence that the quality of caregiving shapes the development of the neurological systems which regulate stress.

Another issue is the role of inherited genetic factors in shaping attachments: One theoretical basis for this is that it makes biological sense for children to vary in their susceptibility to rearing influence. As a theory of socioemotional development , attachment theory has implications and practical applications in social policy, decisions about the care and welfare of children and mental health.

Social policies concerning the care of children were the driving force in Bowlby's development of attachment theory. The difficulty lies in applying attachment concepts to policy and practice. Zeanah and colleagues stated, "Supporting early child-parent relationships is an increasingly prominent goal of mental health practitioners, community-based service providers and policy makers Attachment theory and research have generated important findings concerning early child development and spurred the creation of programs to support early child-parent relationships.

Historically, attachment theory had significant policy implications for hospitalized or institutionalized children, and those in poor quality daycare. It is plain from research that poor quality care carries risks but that those who experience good quality alternative care cope well although it is difficult to provide good quality, individualized care in group settings.

Attachment theory has implications in residence and contact disputes, [] and applications by foster parents to adopt foster children. In the past, particularly in North America, the main theoretical framework was psychoanalysis. Increasingly attachment theory has replaced it, thus focusing on the quality and continuity of caregiver relationships rather than economic well-being or automatic precedence of any one party, such as the biological mother. Rutter noted that in the UK, since , family courts have shifted considerably to recognize the complications of attachment relationships.

Judgements need to take this into account along with the impact of step-families. Attachment theory has been crucial in highlighting the importance of social relationships in dynamic rather than fixed terms. Attachment theory can also inform decisions made in social work , especially in humanistic social work Petru Stefaroi , [] [] and court processes about foster care or other placements.

Considering the child's attachment needs can help determine the level of risk posed by placement options. Many researchers in the field were strongly influenced by it. Although attachment theory has become a major scientific theory of socioemotional development with one of the widest research lines in modern psychology, it has, until recently, been less used in clinical practice. The attachment theory focused on the attention of the child when the mother is there and the responses that the child shows when the mother leaves, which indicated the attachment and bonding of the mother and the child.

The attention therapy is the done while the child is being restrained by the therapists and the responses displayed were noted. The tests were done to show the responses of the child. This may be partly due to lack of attention paid to clinical application by Bowlby himself and partly due to broader meanings of the word 'attachment' used amongst practitioners. It may also be partly due to the mistaken association of attachment theory with the pseudoscientific interventions misleadingly known as " attachment therapy ".

In , Bowlby published a series of lectures indicating how attachment theory and research could be used in understanding and treating child and family disorders. His focus for bringing about change was the parents' internal working models, parenting behaviours and the parents' relationship with the therapeutic intervenor.

They range from individual therapy to public health programmes to interventions designed for foster caregivers. For infants and younger children, the focus is on increasing the responsiveness and sensitivity of the caregiver, or if that is not possible, placing the child with a different caregiver. Some programmes are aimed at foster carers because the attachment behaviours of infants or children with attachment difficulties often do not elicit appropriate caregiver responses.

Modern prevention and intervention programmes have proven successful. One atypical attachment pattern is considered to be an actual disorder, known as reactive attachment disorder or RAD, which is a recognized psychiatric diagnosis ICD F Against common misconception, this is not the same as 'disorganized attachment'.

The essential feature of reactive attachment disorder is markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness in most contexts that begins before age five years, associated with gross pathological care.

There are two subtypes, one reflecting a disinhibited attachment pattern, the other an inhibited pattern. RAD is not a description of insecure attachment styles, however problematic those styles may be; instead, it denotes a lack of age-appropriate attachment behaviours that may appear to resemble a clinical disorder. It may also be used to refer to proposed new classification systems put forward by theorists in the field, [] and is used within attachment therapy as a form of unvalidated diagnosis.

As attachment theory offers a broad, far-reaching view of human functioning, it can enrich a therapist's understanding of patients and the therapeutic relationship rather than dictate a particular form of treatment. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

History of attachment theory. Reactive attachment disorder and Attachment disorder. Atlas personality Attachment parenting Attachment theory and psychology of religion Fathers as attachment figures Human bonding Nurture kinship. Makers of modern psychotherapy. The Cultural Nature of Human Development. Disciplinary and cultural contexts". European Journal of Developmental Psychology. Attachment across the lifecourse: Theory, Research and Clinical Applications.

Understanding Attachment and Attachment Disorders: Mental representation and change: Developing attachment relationships in an adoption context. Psychoanalytic Inquiry , 30, Identifying therapeutic action in an attachment-based intervention with high-risk families. Clinical Social Work Journal, 38, The congruence of parents' and their children's representations of their relationship.

The New School Psychology Bulletin , 7, An attachment perspective on Borderline Personality Disorder: Advances in gene-environment considerations. Current Psychiatry Reports, 12, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 15, However, most attachment research is carried out using infants and young children, so psychologists have to devise subtle ways of researching attachment styles, usually involving the observational method.

Psychologist Mary Ainsworth devised an assessment technique called the Strange Situation Classification SSC in order to investigate how attachments might vary between children. Mary Ainsworth's , observational study of individual differences in attachment is described below.

The security of attachment in one- to two-year-olds were investigated using the strange situation paradigm, in order to determine the nature of attachment behaviors and styles of attachment. Ainsworth developed an experimental procedure in order to observe the variety of attachment forms exhibited between mothers and infants. The experiment is set up in a small room with one way glass so the behavior of the infant can be observed covertly.

Infants were aged between 12 and 18 months. The sample comprised of middle-class American families. Strange Situation classifications i. She concluded that these attachment styles were the result of early interactions with the mother. Such children feel confident that the attachment figure will be available to meet their needs.

Securely attached infants are easily soothed by the attachment figure when upset. Infants develop a secure attachment when the caregiver is sensitive to their signals, and responds appropriately to their needs.

According to Bowlby , an individual who has experienced a secure attachment ' is likely to possess a representational model of attachment figures s as being available, responsive, and helpful ' Bowlby, , p.

Insecure avoidant children do not orientate to their attachment figure while investigating the environment. They do not seek contact with the attachment figure when distressed. Such children are likely to have a caregiver who is insensitive and rejecting of their needs Ainsworth, The third attachment style identified by Ainsworth was insecure ambivalent also called insecure resistant. Here children adopt an ambivalent behavioral style towards the attachment figure. The child will commonly exhibit clingy and dependent behavior, but will be rejecting of the attachment figure when they engage in interaction.

The child fails to develop any feelings of security from the attachment figure. Accordingly, they exhibit difficulty moving away from the attachment figure to explore novel surroundings. When distressed they are difficult to soothe and are not comforted by interaction with the attachment figure.

This behavior results from an inconsistent level of response to their needs from the primary caregiver. Insecure ambivalent attached infants are associated with inconsistent primary care.

Insecure-avoidant infants are associated with unresponsive primary care. Ambivalent children have a negative self-image and exaggerate their emotional responses as a way to gain attention Kobak et al. Accordingly, insecure attachment styles are associated with an increased risk of social and emotional behavioral problems via the internal working model.

This caregiver sensitivity theory is supported by research from, Wolff and Van Ijzendoorn who conducted a Meta-analysis a review of research into attachment types. They found that there is a relatively weak correlation of 0.

Strange Situation Procedure

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The attachment behavior system is an important concept in attachment theory because it provides the conceptual linkage between ethological models of human development and modern theories on emotion regulation and personality.

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Attachment theory has been generating creative and impactful research for almost half a century. In this article we focus on the documented antecedents and consequences of individual differences in infant attachment patterns, suggesting topics for further theoretical clarification, research, clinical interventions, and policy applications.

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The idea that insecure attachments are synonymous with RAD is, in fact, not accurate and leads to ambiguity when formally discussing attachment theory as it has evolved in the research literature. This is not to suggest that the concept of RAD is without merit, but rather that the clinical and research conceptualizations of insecure attachment. For example, the research influenced the theoretical work of John Bowlby, the most important psychologist in attachment theory. It could also be seen a vital in convincing people about the importance of emotional care in .

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Attachment Representations and Adoption Outcome: On the use of narrative assessments to track the adaptation of previously maltreated children in their new families. In B. Neil & G. Wrobel (Eds.), International Advances in Adoption Research for Practice (pp ). Attachment theory is centered on the emotional bonds between people and suggests that our earliest attachments can leave a lasting mark on our lives. Research has suggested that this attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. Children who are punished for relying on a caregiver will learn to avoid seeking help.