Quality care

Continuity of care is an important factor of quality care, studies showed that if a child was continually moved from one nursery to another, then behavioural problems concerning social development were evident (Schaffer 1977). Martin S et al (1994) argue their studies of children in care show that children who had experienced frequent changes of care settings were significantly slower in both cognitive, linguistic and emotional development. They point to further evidence that shows these abilities are still underdeveloped through later childhood.

Research and studies done in prisons have highlighted prisons contain a high proportion of individuals who in childhood lacked consistent, continuous, concerned care, resulting in a secure attachment not being formed. (Pringle 1970). Much research has shown insecure attachments can be strengthened, it is argued that early relationships are important to social development but not exclusively so, later relationships matter too. (Tizard 1975)

Further studies using Ainsworth’s strange situation methods have shown attachments are not always permanent. Should a child experience important changes in their life such as divorce then their attachment can move from secure to insecure. Children display a resilience to recover from damaging or inadequate early experiences and insecure attachments are not irreparable. Research has shown that contrary to Bowlby’s idea of monotropy children can form more than one significant attachment and these need not be the biological parents, and can be of either sex, although there is often a definite hierarchy.

Father’s attachments to infants are as strong as the mothers in the first few days of life. Then the attachment changes because of the different amount of time available to interact with the infant due to their work commitment. Both mother and father are important attachment figures for their infants but the circumstances that lead to selecting mother or father may differ, for example the father is usually selected for play. (Schaffer & Emerson 1964)According to Parke (1981) “Both mother and father are important attachment figures, the father is not just a poor substitute for the mother”.

Bowlby had argued that maternal deprivation was the cause of abnormal or deviant behaviour, this has been criticised because the person displaying deviant behaviour or abnormal behaviour may be biologically predisposed to it. This may result in that person being unable to empathise with other people. This lack of empathy could mean that attachments in childhood were unable to form and that their subsequent deviant behaviour links to several issues not just maternal deprivation. To consider how attachment theory and the studies detailed can be linked to social work Coulshed (1988) proposed

“Psychology has been useful in the degree to which you can apply some of the theories, if you are prepared to see theoretical contributions as ways of enriching your thinking and understanding. You will gain a broad framework of information through which you will recognise the complexities and possible causes of human suffering.” Using the term ‘human suffering’ and linking it to psychology reinforces the contemporary social work view of individualism. A problem for social workers will be determining which needs of the client should be addressed, those that the client reveals or those that they do not. Also the dilemma faced when determining In a non-judgmental way what parenting skills are considered acceptable or unacceptable, e.g. when the parent/s are meeting some of the child’s need but not others.

Attachment theory has had an impact on many areas relating to how children are cared for including the legal framework it operates under and how services for children have developed. Some of the areas were clear links can be made to practice being underpinned by attachment theory has effected changes are; When negotiating contact between children and their families it is undertaken from a child centre perspective rather from the adults involved. This may include having closer links with grandparents, relatives and any other persons who the child considers significantly important to them.

Attachment theories underpin the policies that are relevant to the development of children in public care and form the basis for assessing their needs such as pre placement and post placement support systems. The effects of separation and loss that children have experienced can be taken into account in assessing their needs. Social Work as a profession can promote the needs of children through influencing policy and practice e.g. Acknowledgement that delays in placing children may be detrimental to their wellbeing should ensure that the adoption and fostering processes can be as speedy and efficient as possible. Likewise, it is clear from research that children are adversely affected by the loss of familiar peers. Children who maintain friendships over time are seen to have greater social skills and better social adjustment this should also be promoted.

Current stereotyping of young people ‘in care’ suggests that they are either helpless victims or out of control hooligans, social workers with a knowledge of attachment theory can challenge this stereotyping and any discrimination that occurs through promoting anti-oppressive practices stemming from a secure knowledge base, and values that uphold respect for all irrespective of age. An example of this could be how a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder has equal opportunities to successful placements given their needs have been recognised and there is in place strategies that help to achieve this.

This disorder which affects many children is often mis-diagnosed with the result that the children often end up in young offenders institutes. Gregory Keck from the Attachment and Bonding Centre of Ohio USA believes RAD can occur if a child does not form a healthy attachment to the parents in the first three years. Keck uses Erik Eriksons theory of human development to explain that if a baby regularly cries in rage for food but is not fed then that baby will not develop trust in the parents. According to Keck this results in the developing child becoming self-reliant and storing up rage against the parents. This has been found to happen most often in chaotic families were the child is neglected or abused.

Keck states that if this child came into the care system unmet rage will be transferred to the foster carers. Multiple moves will intensify the disorder. Pre-placement support as well as post placement support systems have to be initiated if there is to be a successful placement for these children. According to Department of Health figures in 1996 there are approximately 50,000 children and young people being ‘looked after’ and this figure excludes those disabled children in respite care. This is a lot of children from unsettled backgrounds needing social work intervention and specialist knowledge.

Because children from unhappy backgrounds with damaged attachments come into the care system attachment theory has been used as a basis for various methods that can help children who are often unable to be able to speak about their experiences e.g. Eco-maps that help children plot the people they care about have proved reliable and effective. Attachment studies have shown that there is a tendency for children to idolise their attachment figures, even if the reality is they are being badly cared for. Other studies show that children with insecure attachments often develop an air of ‘toughness’ to mask their vulnerability (Thoburn 1991).

Both studies are instances when attachment theory can be used constructively if abuse or neglect is suspected e.g. if the child has to experience a separation then understanding that they may blame themselves (it has happened because I am bad), can be pre-empted with coping strategies already in place to help the child manage their emotions without delay e.g. appropriate counselling. Both studies are also examples of how attachment theory has given an insight into otherwise unexplainable behaviour e.g. that children have and develop defensive mechanisms in order to better manage the psychological stress that occurs when close relationships are unreliable and unpredictable. (Goffman 1969)

In conclusion it can be said that attachment theory offers a valuable perspective on the development of feelings and behaviours relating to human needs. It also deals with the impact of separation and loss and explains their significance to emotional development and subsequent well being. It is clear Bowlby’s theory had a major impact and has influenced and initiated further research into an otherwise unexplored areas.

To pull the theory and practice together, it can be said that attachment theory is useful in four different but complimentary ways. 1. In understanding universal reactions. 2. Understanding individuals different reactions. 3. Understanding the nature and impact of lost relationships. 4. Understanding appropriate coping strategies. As a consequence of this wealth of knowledge attachment theory has allowed optimism to develop towards caring for children as a less distorted and confused picture of child development has emerged. It is now apparent that healthy development can occur in many different family environments. There are many ‘right’ ways of meeting children’s needs.

Stressful experiences can be minimised by effective action on the part of the care practitioners involved. Traumatic events do not have to have lasting or damaging consequences if positive action is taken. Children are more resilient and adaptable than was once thought. Productive and meaningful placements can be effected through knowledge of children’s needs. Children being ‘looked after’ need not be disadvantaged if ‘quality care’ is obtained.


Ainsworth et al (1978) Patterns of Attachment A Psychological Study of The Strange Situation Hillsdale Lawrence Erlbaun Bee H Mitchell SK (1984) The Developing Person a Lifespan Approach New York Harper & Row Bowlby J (1946) forty-four Juvenile Thieves London Tindall & Cox Bowlby J (1951) Maternal Care and Mental Health Geneva WHO

The first theory Bowlby’s maternal deprivation relates to Matthew as he is the oldest of four children and his father left when he was only seven, since then he has lived with his mother and has been the only male …

John Bowlby (1953) studied emotional disturbance in children occasioned by the separation of the child from it’s family, in particular from its mother. It provided a radical challenge to existing child-care policy, which had laid priority on removing children from …

On the other hand, the scope of evidence is also a key determinant of how effective the adoption of evidence-based practices will be able to improve health care provision. Since the availability of scientific research evidence is variable as well …

Developmental psychologists are interested in the study of the individual from conception to old age. One area of particular interest is the significance of parent-child bonding. Attachment can be defined as ‘an enduring bond of affection directed towards a specific …

David from Healtheappointments:

Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out https://goo.gl/chNgQy