Free Approaches To Attachment Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Children, Family, Women, Mother, Parents, Behavior, Love, People

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/26

Definition of attachment

Attachment, in general terms, can be defined as a close connection between two people, not depending on their location, lasting in time, and which serves as a source of emotional intimacy (Falberg, 2012). Attachment is the desire for intimacy with another person, along with the effort to maintain this closeness. For children, attachment is a vital necessity in the literal sense of the word: babies who are left without emotional warmth may die despite normal care, and in older children, the development process may be disrupted because of the lack of affection and attachment to other people. Strong attachment to parents gives the child an opportunity to develop a basic trust to the world, as well as positive self-esteem.
One of the central concepts of attachment theory is the "object of affection" (attachment figure). Obviously, for most people, the mother is a primary attachment figure. However, consanguinity does not play a decisive role: in the absence of biological mother, she can be replaced by any person who is able to establish a relationship of affection with the child.

Schaffer`s stages of attachment

As the result of experiments, German psychologist Rudolph Schaffer suggested, that there are certain patterns in the attachment process. Thus, he outlined four stages of attachment. First stage is called asocial stage and it can be observed in infants of up to six weeks of age. On this stage, an infant does not distinguish between people and may form attachment with any human being. The period from six weeks to six months is defined as the time of indiscriminate attachment. Babies are able to tell people apart and begin to form indiscriminate attachments. On the stage of specific attachment (from seven months), an infant forms a bond with a specific individual or individuals and may show signs of distress when this individual leaves. The fear of strangers also emerges on this stage. The final stage is the period of multiple attachments. On this stage, a baby forms numerous attachments with other people, usually close relatives. (Schaffer, 2003)

Ainsworth’s types of attachment

Based on the experiment, Ainsworth outlined three types of attachment. In this experiment, the main indicator of the quality of attachment was the child`s reaction to the separation and the meeting with the mother. Based on children's responses to separation and reunion, they were divided into three groups.
Children from the group "B" started to get upset when they were separated from their mothers, and when she returned they seemed happy again, sought proximity and interaction. This behavior demonstrates the affection and sense of security the mother gives to her child. Therefore, the type of attachment in this group of children was called "secure attachment".
Children from the group "A" were not upset and did not cry when separated from mothers. Some of the children ignored or avoided their mothers when they returned. This behavior indicates the alienation and lack of a sense of security in the child. This type of attachment is called avoidant-unsecure attachment.
Finally, the children from the third group "C" reacted angrily to separation from the mothers, but refused to have any contacts after the return. Those children were angry, they cried, but obviously, wanted the attention. This behavior is indicative of ambivalent, inconsistent attitude to the mother, as well as shows the lack of a sense of confidence and security in the child. This type of attachment is usually referred to as ambivalent- unsecure attachment or anxious-unsecure attachment. (Ainsworth, 1976)
There are a number of psychological theories that attempt to explain the phenomenon of attachment, including behaviourist approach, developmental approach and psychodynamic approach.

Behaviourist and psychodynamic approach

The proponents of behaviorist approach argue that in the early childhood, the minds of all people can be compared to a blank slate or “tabula rasa”. Therefore, we acquire our behavior and personality only through nurture and development. The behaviorist approach is based on the idea that the attachment is formed through associations connected with food or milk that the caregiver gives to the child. (Dollard and Miller, 1950) Similarly, the psychodynamic approach argues that when the mother feeds her child, the stimulus of food leads to satisfaction of hunger drive, which, in turn, gives the child a pleasure.(Freud, 1988) Thus, the mother or caregiver in the child`s mind becomes associated with the feeling of pleasure, which forms the basis of attachment bond. At the same time, the experiment conducted by Harlow involving the maternal separation of monkeys revealed, that the feeling of comfort and safety plays a much bigger role in the creation of attachment bond than the satisfaction of hunger. (Harlow, 1959)

Developmental approach

One of the major proponents of developmental approach, John Bowlby, criticized the psychoanalytic theory because the latter, in his view, argued that the basic need of every child is food, and attachment to the mother is considered only as a secondary need. In his opinion, the most important thing for the child is a strong attachment to the mother. He believed that the predisposition to attachment, which is a biologically determined innate instinctive reaction system, is as important motivator of the baby`s behavior as the need for hunger satisfaction, if not more important. Bowlby`s fundamental assertion is that a human baby possesses five highly organized behavioral systems: it can suck, cry, smile, cling, as well as navigate. Some of these systems function since birth, others appear later. They activate the system of maternal behavior in the mother or the person who replaces her, and the infant receives feedback. This feedback stimulates certain behavior that creates attachment. This phenomenon can be explained by a theory of innate programming which suggests that all our traits, whether psychological or physical, are “designed” to help us survive and reproduce. Thus, attachment can be explained by congenital, genetic mechanisms. Mother, both in animals and in humans, primarily performs the function of protecting the offspring from the adverse effects of the environment. In the process of evolution, a certain instinctive mechanism is developed. When this mechanism is turned on, a child seeks proximity with the mother, especially in potentially dangerous situations. Bowlby`s theory also suggests, that if the attachment is not formed within a certain period (early childhood), then it might not develop in the future. Another part of his hypothesis argues that the early attachment figure gives the child a basic idea of human relationships and serves as an example of how future attachments are formed. (Bowlby, 1999)


Harlow H.F.: Zimmerman R.R. (1959). Affectional responses in the infant monkey. Science, vol (130):421-432
Vera I Fahlberg, (2012). A Child's Journey Through Placement, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
H. Rudolph Schaffer, (2003) Introducing Child Psychology, Blackwell; 1 edition.
Ainsworth, M., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of Attachment. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Bowlby J (1999) [1969]. Attachment. Attachment and Loss (vol. 1) (2nd ed.). New York: Basic Books.
Dollard, J. & Miller, N.E. (1950). Personality and psychotherapy. New York: McGraw-Hill
Freud, Sigmund, James Strachey, and Sigmund Freud. The Complete Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988. Print.

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