Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Brittany Meier
English 025
Dr. Julie Bilz
November 19, 2014
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Brittany Meier
Julie Bliz
English 025
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Attachment is defined as “the strong affectionate tie we have for special people in our
lives that leads us to experience pleasure and joy when we interact with them and to be
comforted by their nearness in times of stress” (Berk 2012 p. 264). Babies tend to be attached to
their primary caregiver which in most cases is their mother. The Attachment Theory was
developed by John Bowlby who drew from concepts from ethology, cybernetics, information
processing, developmental psychology, and psychoanalysts (Bretherton 1992). Bowlby’s main
idea behind the Attachment Theory is that babies and toddlers need that connection to at least
one adult in order to survive. Bowlby believed that are four basic characteristics of attachment
that include a safe heaven, a secure base, proximity maintenance and separation distress (Sincero
Attachment develops in four stages, pre-attachment phase, attachment in the making,
clear-cut attachment, and formation of reciprocal relationship (Berk p. 265). Pre-attachment
phase happens at birth through six weeks old when a baby cries, smiles, grasps for things they
are giving signals to their caregiver that they need or want comfort. They are not attached to
anybody at this age even though they can tell the sound of their mother and fathers voice they
don’t mind be left with an unfamiliar person. Attachment in the making phase happens around
the age of six weeks to six to eight months, at this age they get excited when their primary
caregiver walks into sight then if it were a stranger. Babies at this age are starting to get a sense
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
of trust, that if they cry their caregiver will tend to them but they still don’t mind be separated.
Clear-cut attachment phase happens around the age of six to eight months to eighteen months to
two years. At this age when separated from their primary caregiver the infant knows and shows
signs of separation anxiety. Babies become upset when the caregiver leaves, not all babies tend
to do this at this age it sometimes depends on the baby. Besides getting upset when the caregiver
leaves older infants the twenty month to two year olds will follow the caregiver around to make
sure that they are not leaving even go to as far as wanted to be held and not let down. The child
at this age tends not to explore as much because they want to keep the caregiver in their sights.
The final phase formation of reciprocal relationship phase happens at eighteen months to twop
years and on. At this age the child understand more why the caregiver needs to leave and that
they will return but they still protest and try to persuade them from leaving. They might make the
caregiver feel guilty or ask a million question to spend more time with the caregiver before they
leave. Berk (2012) says “According to Bowlby (1980), out of their experiences during the four
phases, children construct an enduring affectionate tie to the caregiver that they can use a secure
base in the parent’s absence” (Berk p. 266). By developing these phases it serves as a guide to
future healthy relationships.
Bowlby’s first attachment study was presented to the British Psychoanalytic Society in
the form of three papers, “The Nature of the Child’s tie to His Mother” (1958), “Separation
Anxiety” (1959), and “Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood” (1960) (Bretherton
1992). The first paper proposed that one to two month olds attachment behavior is made up of
many instinctual responses that bind the infant to the mother and vice and versa. Things like
sucking, clinging, following and the infant smiling or crying became more evident the older the
infant got. Bowlby thought clinging and following were the most important to determine whether
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
or not the Attachment Theory was present. The second paper Bowlby claims that the
“Traditional Theory can explain neither the intense attachment of infants and young children to a
mother figure nor the dramatic responses to separation” (Bretherton). When an infant or child is
separated from their caregiver there are clear signs that they suffer from separation anxiety
Bowlby says that this is a clear sign of Attachment Theory. The third paper which was the most
controversial one, Bowlby questioned Anna Frued’s theory that infants can’t mourn and just
suffer brief moments of separation anxiety (Bretherton 1992). But Bowlby explains that the
grief and mourning process happen when the infant or an adult is separated from the one they
love or care for deeply and this person becomes unavailable continuously.
In conclusion we learned that John Bowlby thought that attachment developed in four
stages, pre-attachment phase, attachment in the making, clear-cut attachment, and formation of
reciprocal relationship. John Bowlby has done many studies to go with his findings and has
wrote many papers on his findings. Even though some people didn’t agree with Bowlby his
theory is still widely known by other theorist.
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Berk, L. (2012). Emotional and Social Development in Infancy and Toddlerhood. In Infants,
Children and Adolescents (Seventh ed., p. 264 and 266). New York: Pearson.
Bretherton, I. (1992, January 1). The Origins of Attachment Theory: John Bowlby and
Mary Ainsworth. Retrieved November 1, 2014, from
Sincero, S. (May 17, 2012). Bowlby Attachment Theory. Retrieved November from
Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
Peer Review by Jake Stevenson
Does the thesis present the main point of the paper? How could it be improved?
I feel as if your thesis is very strong. You have done a great job with this portion.
Does the introductory paragraph contain the thesis and catch the reader's attention?
Your introduction is very good. I would not change anything about it.
Does the concluding paragraph wrap up the paper in a logical manner?
You have a good conclusion; I would add a few more details to it though.
Does the paper show the author's personality?
I feel as if your paper shows personality.
Are specific examples used to support points made in the essay? If yes, cite one example. If no, cite
one place where the author could use a concrete detail to make his/her point stronger.
Berk (2012) says “According to Bowlby (1980), out of their experiences during the four phases,
children construct an enduring affectionate tie to the caregiver that they can use a secure base in
the parent’s absence” (Berk p. 266).
Are wording and ideas fresh and interesting? How could it be improved?
Correct any spelling, punctuation, grammar etc...
Name three things you liked about the paper. ) Give three comments or suggestions to improve the
One of the few things that I would change is that on your first page, in your header, you need the
words RUNNING HEAD:. I would take out your name on the second page. You should consider
an abstract as well, but I am not sure that it is required.