Does attachment theory provide a sound for advice on how to bring up children? The present essay is intend to explore research studies of attachment theory concerning how to bring up children. The shape of my discussion is as follows: firstly, a review of research and theories on the child’s early relationships and experience. Secondly, the implications of these key features for the child development theories are discussed. Finally, end-up with final remarks.
Within child development one can distinguish a variety of approaches that provide different methods and explanations of understanding the growth of the relationship between a newborn child and the caregiver(s). There are four main approaches: behaviourist, nativist, , constructivists and social constructivists. The conceptual and methodological of each of these approaches are very different indeed. One way of comparing and contrasting these approaches is to look at their assumptions of first relationships and interactions on child development. Theoretical arguments have often centred on the issue of external versus internal influences on development. Behaviourists stress the role of environment and the child’s past history of reinforcements (i.e., perspective of stimulus-response relationship).
Nativist theories stress the critical importance of biological factors of development (i.e., inborn ‘preparedness). Both, constructivists (e.g., sensori-motor schemas) and social constructivists (i.e., socio-cultural scaffolding perspective) propose that development is a discontinuous rather than a continuous process. Although social constructivist agree with the general constructivist position of the role of both maturation and learning, but stress the social nature of development, emphasizing the influence of the cultural context on development. No one theory is completely ‘right’ or completely ‘wrong’. Each theory has contributed widely to enhance our knowledge about child development. Together these theories give us a broad picture of early relationships.
Perhaps the most pervasive view concerning long -term development has been that the child’s early relationships experience predetermine the individual’s future. For Freud, the first five years were regarded as critical; for J. B. Watson it was the experience of the first two years, which would make or mar the life path. For Bowlby, good mothering was almost useless if delayed beyond two and a half years; the prolonged deprivation of maternal care might have grave and far-reaching effects on the child’s character and thus the whole of his or her future life.
Like Bowlby, Ainsworth put emphasis on the importance of good mothering as a secure base for the child. In Bowlby’s words, a child who has formed a secure attachment is likely to possess a representational model of attachment figure as being available, responsive, and helpful and a complementary model of himself as at least a potentially lovable and valuable person’ (Bowlby, 1980, p. 242).
The emotional development, that is the psychodynamic approach has become important in psychology as important as cognitive development, behaviourist and nativist constructivism and social constructivism theories. This was shown by the research of Melanie Klein. She developed Object-relations theory. From its first emotional relationships the infant constructs mental models of self-with-other that guide emotional development. If a caregiver is reliable then the model is of love and interpersonal trust.
Should the caregiver be neglectful, the correspondingly untrusting models of self-with-other from foundations for subsequent relationships. Generally, Kleinian theory describes how babies may form representations of other people and their relationships with them. The way mothers deal with distress in their babies may play an important part in their babies’ development. According to Klein, the first three or four months are characterized by splitting of objects into good and bad part-objects. Thus the child’s mind would come to contain representations of many part-objects, derived from experiences with her mother (i.e., bad or good feelings) and other based on fantasy. Thus, for example, in a depressive position such as feeling of hangar, the infant begins to appreciate that ‘the- breast that satisfies’ is actually the same object as ‘the-breast-that frustrates’.
Many psychologists believe that relationships between infants and their caregivers are crucial for mental development. Therefore, research has focused on the early relationships between babies and their caregivers. Both attachment and temperament are inferred from behaviour, and most of the behaviour which both kind of theories are concerned is social behaviour (Stevenson-Hind & Hind, 1986). Social behaviour is usually observed in interactions, that is, exchanges that are limited in time, and interactions can be described by specifying the content and their quality or style. Relationships involve a series of interactions in time between individuals known to each other (Hind, 1976).
One of the key features of relationships is that when there is meshing between mother and infant which can give the infant the experience of taking part in a dialogue. This early experience with other human beings provides the first experiences of relatedness. Murray and Trevarthen, 1985 conversations with babies studies indicates that there is a clear signs of distress if the live link with the mother is replaced either by a delay in the circuit or a replay of a recording of the mother made in the same situation a few minutes previously.
However, relationships between children and their caregivers are not the same as relationships between adults. Clearly, then, relationships with others involve many psychological processes. For instance, the psychoanalytic concept of projection which describes a way of handling feelings and thoughts and attribute them to others, in fact, it belong to our own selves. In fact, it is socially adaptive. Thus we develop a sense of empathy, a feeling of belonging t a same species. The concept of projection can be used to describe some important aspects of relationships with infant.
It is common belief that one of the main applications for a critical influence of child development is the context of social interaction provided by the child’s interaction with significant adults, especially parents. Social interactions can be seen as providing the basis for psychological development. Different beliefs about children effect both the child-rearing practices and what children are expected to do. Jerome Burner believed that the concept of joint-action format is a useful way of describing simplified and stereotyped interaction patterns between mothers and babies.
By involving the baby joint-action formats, the mother creates simplified and stereotyped sequences of actions with objects that are repeated over and over so that the baby can learn them both as potent inter-subjective topics, and as potentially ‘do-able’ alone. Burner (1975) has used the term ‘scaffolding’ to describe a particular way in which adults use various techniques to enable infants to elaborate their behaviour.