A strong bond formed between infant and caregiver

Attachment is a strong bond formed between infant and caregiver. It provides safety and is an asset in terms of the infant’s survival. This bond causes a strong sense of depression when the two individuals are apart and an equal strong sense of elation when they are reunited. Kagan et al (1982) described attachment as “an intense emotional relationship… enduring over time and in which prolonged separation… is accompanied by stress and sorrow” More recently Atkinson et al 2000 describes attachment as “an infant’s tendency to seek closeness to particular people and to feel more secure in their presence”

Most psychologists agree that pleasure on reunion, separation protest (despair when separated), stranger anxiety (fear of strangers) and general orientation (crawling and eye contact) occur because of the formation of attachment, and that most infants go through these stages. The duration and intensity of these feelings however are said to depend on personal differences (Ainsworth 1973; 1978; 1979) (Isabell et al 1989). Ainsworth argues that these differences are caused by the way the mother treats the infant.

Mothers of securely attached infants are sensitive to their child’s needs; whereas mothers of avoidant infants are irritated by them and reject them; mothers of anxious babies, however, are not rejecting but misunderstanding of their infants needs. Isabella et al (1989) supported these theories. However Kagan (1982) suggested that these differences were caused by the infant’s innate temperament, that simply some infants are good at forming attachments and others aren’t.

Belsky and Campell et al (1996) suggest that change; chronic stress or illness occurring in the Primary Care giver may shift the child’s attachment type from secure to insecure. This supports Ainsworth’s theory that it is the mother’s sensitivity and general interest in the infant that causes the differences in attachment. Many later experiments found that insecurely attached children, type A and type C, are more likely to have behavioural or cognitive problems; low self esteem and increased risk of depression, (Posada, Lord and Walters (1995) Speltz, Greenberg and Deklyn (1990) and Walster et al (1995).

Ainsworth (1989) found that although attachment in both parent-child, and partner bonds have many differences, there are important similarities. Both feel safe when the other is nearby and responsive, both engage in close, intimate bodily contact, both feel insecure when the other is inaccessible, both share discoveries with one another, both play with one another’s facial features and exhibit a mutual fascination and preoccupation with one another, both engage in “baby talk”.

Hazan and Shaver (1993) suggest that adult lovers can be securely attached, avoidantly attached and anxiously attached, just as babies, in Ainsworth’s “Strange Situation” study. They said that they acquire this from how their parents cared for them, if they were securely attached as children they are likely to be securely attached to their adult romantic partners. Hazan and Schaver designed a questionnaire to prove their hypothesis and posted it in the “Rocky News”, a Canadian magazine.

This questionnaire suggested that securely attached lovers found it relatively easy to get close to others, and were comfortable with self-disclosure, whereas avoidantly attached lovers found it difficult to trust completely, and feared self-disclosure, and commitment. Anxiously attached lovers on the other hand found others are reluctant to get as close as they would like, felt jealousy frequently, and had a need to “merge completely” with their love partner. Hazan and Schaver also set up a further adjective check list of how the participant remembers being cared for in their childhood.

Attachment is a strong, reciprocal, emotional bond between an infant and their caregiver that is characterised by the desire to maintain proximity. Attachments take different forms, such as secure or insecure. Infants display attachment through the degree of separation distress …

Takahashi (1990) replicated Ainsworth’s strange situation technique in Japan with the aim of investigating cross-cultural differences in attachment. Takahashi wanted to know if the results Ainsworth found in the USA were the same in Japan, thus showing if there was …

One of the most influential accounts of the development of attachment is by Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson in 1964. They suggested that there are three main stages to the attachment process. Stage 1: Which is from birth to 6 …

A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) sheds more light on this. They examined over 1,000 infants and their mothers at age 6 months and again at 15 months. The mothers were …

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