Bowlby’s Theory of Attatchment

Bowlby’s theory was based on his beliefs and examinations on the attachment between mothers and their babies. He believed that if the attachment between the mother and her baby didn’t happen at early stages, it would negatively affect the child’s behavior and learning. Bowlby researched and experimented in order to support his theory. While he worked for a mental health clinic for troubled youths, he conducted an experiment with 44 of the children who had emotional problems and 44 who had been convicted of theft. Within the 44 young people who had emotional problems he found that only two of them had been separated from the mother before the age of five. However, within the 44 thieves he found that 17 of them had been separated from their mother before they were aged 5. Bowlby’s research using the lives of the young people within the clinic helped support his theory of how the mother and babies attachment is an important relationship and if it’s non-existent, it can disturb the child’s behaviour . Bowlby also believed that the absence of this attachment also effected the child’s cognitive and emotional development. He believed that the distress from being separated from the mother can decrease intelligence and can cause depression and aggression. However, Bowlby’s research can be criticised through his choice of a small group of young people as his findings may have been different through the study of a larger group. His theory can also be incorrect as the troubled young people’s behaviour may not have been caused by the separation from the mother, but something else that may have disturbed them within their lives. Bowlby also looked at secondary research which involved animals. Within Lorenz study of goslings, he accomplished that they imprinted on the first thing they seen when they hatched. This usually being the mother, they would stay close to her and follow her in order to be protected and learn how to survive. Lorenz study proved that it was necessary for the goslings to imprint on their mother in order to survive. If they didn’t imprint within a few hours after hatching, the imprint wouldn’t occur at all. This study obviously influenced Bowlby’s theory as he too believed that if the attachment didn’t happen between a baby and its mother, the baby will live with the consequences just like the gosling would.

Rudolph Shaffer and Peggy Emerson, however, disagree with Bowlby’s theory of attachment as they believed multiple attachments were possible and didn’t only include the mother. The pair studied 60 babies monthly for 18 months within the environment of their own homes. It was established that babies up to an including 4 months, have the same response to anyone who will show the love and care. It isn’t until 7 months that the baby will have the attachment to a single person and show fear of strangers. Also at this age, the baby will also find comfort and safety within the figure and show anxiety when separated. However, as the baby continues to develop, they start to become independent and show the signs of multiple attachments at 9 months of age. By 10 months old, the babies had numerous attachments including the attachment to parents, grandparent, siblings and family friends. Overall, Shaffer and Emerson’s studied was evidence against Bowlby’s theory and proved that a baby has multiple attachments and is more likely to become attached to the people who show them the correct affection rather than who they spent the most time with.

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