Critical Developmental Psychology 1
Running head: BOWLBY’S ATTACHMENTS (CHILDHOOD ATTACHMENTS)
Critical Developmental Psychology B: Project on Bowlby’s Attachments
David Farron
Student Number: 200500351
University of Johannesburg
Critical Developmental Psychology 2
Page of Content
1. Introduction……………………………………………………………..page 4
2. Background to Bowlby’s Theory………………………………..……..page 4
3. Theories of Attachment ………………………………………………..page 4
3.1. Psychoanalytic Theory……………………………………………page 5
3.2. Learning Theory……………………………………………………page 5
3.3. Cognitive-Development Theory…………………………………..page 5
3.4. Ethological Theory…………………………………………………page 6
4. Importance of Attachment ………………………………………….....page 6
5. Phases of Attachment………………………………………………….page 7
5.1.
Phase 1…………………………………………………………..page 7
5.2.
Phase 2…………………………………………………………..page 7
5.3.
Phase 3…………………………………………………………..page 8
5.4.
Phase 4…………………………………………………………..page 9
6. Separation………………………………………………………………page 9
7. Conclusion……………………………………………………………...page 10
8. Reference List…………………………………………….…………….page 11
Critical Developmental Psychology 3
Critical Developmental Psychology 4
Abstract
John Bowlby was a psychologist who began to analyze and form theories on childhood
attachments. His theory is known as the “Attachment Theory” and it is in this theory that
the bond and attachment between the child and the primary caregiver is analyzed.
Bowlby describes four separate phases of attachments and analyzes the child’s
expected behavior and expectations in these four phases. Bowlby also makes a crucial
discovery and shows how children, at a certain level, use their primary caregiver as
secure base from which to explore the world.
Critical Developmental Psychology 5
1. Introduction
Since the field of Developmental Psychology was founded and analyzed, there has
been a huge emphasis and desire to learn about how children form attachments to their
parents and how these attachments influence their future behavior and relationships.
Bowlby describes attachment as “a lasting psychological connectedness between
human beings” (Radebe, 2006). Therefore all behavior associated with attachment is
aimed at preserving or improving the proximity a child has towards their caregiver.
Attachments involve a continuous relationship a child has with their caregiver and
involve attributes such as warmth and intimacy. It is through this project that I will
analyze the work done by Bowlby in this field and the results of his theories.
2. Background to Bowlby’s Theory
Bowlby was very interested in affectional bonds, separation, anxiety, grief and
mourning, and unconscious mental processes between children and their parents.
Bowlby believed that in order to study the development of a person, one should study
the environment in which that person was raised. Bowlby therefore looked at institutions
such as orphanages and child guidance centers and noticed that the kids raised in
these institutions had an inability to form intimate relationships with other people as the
mother-infant bond was never there. There are attachment behaviors such as crying,
smiling, grasping, sucking etc… that a child must learn and receive a response in order
to learn how to become attached to another individual. The child’s future attachments
and relationships are based on the responses they receive from their primary caregiver.
It is through this examination that Bowlby also theorized his theory of the Secure Base
(Radebe, 2006).
3. Theories of Attachment
Pets can be seen to form attachments with their owners and appear to be very
responsive and loving towards their owner who feeds them and looks after them, so are
Critical Developmental Psychology 6
humans the same? There are four theories of attachment and each one will now be
described. (Shaffer, 2002)
3.1. Psychoanalytic Theory
This theory is based on Sigmund Freud’s theories and ideas. Freud believes that young
children have an oral fixation and most pleasure and satisfaction they receive comes
from their oral pleasure they are provided. Through the primary caregiver feeding the
infant, the infant attaches himself to the caregiver and looks to the caregiver for
happiness and safety. Erik Erikson went on to state that mother’s feeding practices will
increase the closeness and attachment between the mother and the child. This theory
can basically be summed up the child loving the caregiver because the caregiver feeds
him. ((Shaffer, 2002)
3.2. Learning Theory
This theory states that infants learn to associate love and attachment with their mother
as it is their mother who feeds them and provides them with comfort. Through their
learning that their mother is a source of love and comfort they begin to become reliant
on their mother and love back. Once the primary caregiver has been given the status of
the “secondary reinforecer” (Shaffer, 2002; 390) the infant is officially attached and now
cries, babbles, smiles, etc… in order to receive positive reinforcement from the
caregiver. Experiments were preformed with monkeys to asses’ weather a baby monkey
will be more attracted to a soft and cuddly warm cloth mother, or to a cloth mother that
simply fed him. The results showed that the monkey is more attracted to the cloth
mother. This shows how animals systematically learn to love a caregiver that is warm
and loving. (Shaffer, 2002)
3.3. Cognitive Developmental Theory
This theory explains attachments as a conscious thought process that goes through the
mind of the infant. After about six months, the infant begins to recognize familiar faces
and discriminate and form biases as to who he perceives as familiar and loving and who
he does not. It was found that only when a child reaches the age of approximately nine
Critical Developmental Psychology 7
month old, is he able to form an attachment to his primary caregivers. This theory
advocates that in order for an attachment to occur, the child must consciously and
cognitively know that his caregiver is there for him in order to form an attachment and
love the caregiver back. (Shaffer, 2002)
3.4. Ethological Theory
This theory states that emotional attachments are possibly there due to powerful and
dominant evolutionary factors. This theory is the one that John Bowlby uses when he
describes attachments and is the standpoint for his theory. The theory states that the
attachment itself is thought to have adaptive values as it guarantees the safety and
unconditional love a baby needs in order to survive. This theory complies with
Darwinian theory of “survival of the fittest” and shows that it is human nature to attach
themselves to their primary caregiver in order to produce a successful generation and
keep surviving. (Shaffer, 2002). This theory is very important in Bowlby’s attachment
theory and will be described in the following section of this project.
4. Importance of Attachment
John Bowlby believed that attachment is crucial for humans. Bowlby based a lot of his
theories on the Darwinian Approach towards understanding human nature. He therefore
believed that human interaction is a very important component in the survival of
humans. An infant’s survival in this world is therefore based upon his ability to
communicate and form a close attachment with his primary caregiver. It is through this
attachment that the child will be protected and enabled to grow and discover new
experiences. (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall)
Humans are born incredibly premature by nature and they are very dependent on their
primary caregivers. It is therefore crucial, and makes sense, that children form a bond
with their caregivers in order to survive. Bowlby believes that as humans grow up they
need to have relationships and bonds with other humans as it is human nature to never
want to be alone and to fear loneliness. This illustrates how important learning to attach
to other individuals is as this shapes our future relationships. (Bowlby, 1988)
Critical Developmental Psychology 8
5. Phases of Attachment
Bowlby states that there are (particular) critical periods of sensitivity for bonding. There
are four phases of attachment that take place from birth, until the end of childhood.
Each phase represents a new different period in the child’s life in which the child is at a
certain stage and ready to receive different forms of attachment. (Bowlby, 1988)
5.1. Phase 1
The first phase of attachment takes place from birth – three months of age. This phase
of attachment is known as “Indiscriminate Responsiveness to Humans” (Radebe,
2006) or “The Initial Pre-attachment Phase” (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall). At the
very beginning of a child’s life, the child exhibits responses towards other humans.
However these responses are not biased or discriminatory at all and are completely
unselective. The baby has not formed a personal attachment to any particular person
yet and therefore has no preference in responding to any human. In approximately the
first five-six weeks smiles and other responses are produced, but only briefly. It is after
roughly 6 weeks old that a baby actually begins making eye contact with other humans
and smiles when they see other human, but at this early stage of development, the
baby has no preference as to which human the baby smiles at. Bowlby holds the
opinion that the act of smiling promotes and allows for attachment to take place as it
guarantees the proximity of the caregiver. Proximity of the caregiver can be, and is
assured through other behaviors such as crying and babbling. These behaviors
promote attachment as they exhibit a response from the caregiver and a relationship is
formed or strengthened. (Radebe, 2006)
5.2.
Phase 2
The second phase of attachment takes place from three - six months of age. This phase
of attachment is known as “Focusing on Familiar People” (Radebe, 2006) or “The
Phase of Attachment in The Making” (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall). It is in this
phase and stage of a baby’s life that their social responses become more selective and
favoritism begins to occur as to what behaviors will be performed in front of which
people. The baby will progressively restrict its smiles to people that he is familiar with
Critical Developmental Psychology 9
and begins to only babble in the presence of familiar faces. It is in this phase that the
infant takes preferences and identifies his primary attachment figure or the primary
caregiver. The primary caregiver is normally the mother, but can also be the father on
occasion. The primary caregiver is the person who the child perceives to respond most
consistently and regularly to his behaviors and signs. (Radebe, 2006)
5.3.
Phase 3
The third phase takes place from six months – three years of age and is known as
“Intense Attachment and Active Proximity-Seeking” (Radebe, 2006) or “The Phase of
Clear-cut Attachment” (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall). By the age of six months, the
child’s attachment and openness to people has become very limited and exclusive
towards a select few people. Towards the few people, or single person, the attachment
now becomes very intense as most infants cry when their attachment figure leaves the
room and show great joy and happiness on the attachment figure returning. This may
actually be so intense that separation anxiety sometimes exists. After approximately
eight months, the child potentially begins to display a fear of strangers as the baby has
such a great and immense attachment towards their primary caregiver. This immense
attachment becomes even more evident when at approximately eight months the child
begins to crawl and then usually actively attempts to follow the parent. Most likely the
baby will attempt to be in proximity of the caregiver and then signal that he wants to be
picked up, and once this has happened the child will be at ease and tranquil. (Radebe,
2006)
It is during this phase that Bowlby made a crucial discovery. Bowlby observed that
babies use their primary caregiver as a secure base from which to explore. This can be
seen from when babies actively begin to explore their environment. When analyzing a
babies initial exploration of their environment, the baby eventually leaves his caregivers
side to play, but returns to the caregivers side every once in a while and consistently
looks back and glances at the caregiver and makes sure she is still there. (Radebe,
2006)
Critical Developmental Psychology 10
By the end of the first twelve months of the child’s life, the child has formulated a model
of his relationship with the attachment figure. The child now has expectations about the
attachment figure and knows when and how to communicate with that figure. This is
where Bowlby’s Attachment Theory explains behavior as the theory hypothesis and tries
to show that a child who believes that his mother is and will always be there for him
when he needs her will explore new situations and be comfortable to investigate new
experiences. However, a child who perceives his primary caregiver as unavailable and
not engages with him, will be anxious and nervous about exploring the world when
away from the caregiver. (Radebe, 2006)
5.4.
Phase 4
The final phase takes place from the child being three years old and ends with the end
of childhood. This phase is known as “Partnership Behavior” (Radebe, 2006) or “The
Phase of a Goal-corrected Partnership” (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall). By the time
the child is three; he can now actually empathize with the caregiver and realizes that the
caregiver has her own plans. The child also begins to envisage the caregiver while the
caregiver is not there. The parent therefore begins to act like a partner in the
relationship as the child begins to allow the parent to leave his side and live their own
lives to an extent. This phase is very gradual and involves and involves the child
consistently becoming more independent as time goes on. (Radebe, 2006)
6. Separation
Bowlby was a strong believer that separation from the primary caregiver does indeed
have an enormous impact on the child. When the separation process does actually take
place the following stages take place in order: protest; despair; and detachment. The
first stage involves the child complaining, whining etc… in order to prevent the
separation from occurring. The Second stage involves the child simply being saddened
and demoralized about the separation but accepting it. The final stage involves the
separation taking place. (Radebe, 2006)
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7. Conclusion
Bowlby was the first scholar to actually analyze the attachment of children to their
parents and the psychological implications the relationship will have on their future
relationships. Through his work he devised phases in which certain attachment
behaviors take place. Bowlby is truly the catalyst on the attachment theory and his
theory and analysis led to much w\more work and experimentation done on the topic.
Critical Developmental Psychology 12
Reference List
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of
Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. New Jersey: Lawrence
Filbaum Associates, Publishers Hilsdale.
Bowlby, J. (1988). A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human
Development.
Shaffer, D. R. (2002). Developmental Psychology: Sixth Edition. Belmont: Thomson
Learning Inc.
Child and Family Psychology 2A: Reader for KLS2A11. Compiled by Ms. N.B. Radebe.
University of Johannesburg. 2006.
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Running head: BOWLBY'S ATTACHMENTS (CHILDHOOD