One of my best friends brought something up a while back that peaked my interests. Attachment theory. This theory deals with the relationships and attachments we form with significant people in our lives. For example our attachments with our parental figures and romantic partners.
The first attachment theorist was British psychologist John Bowlby. He described attachment as a ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human beings. Initially many people believed that attachment was a learned behaviour and that through parents feeding their children, the children attach to their parents through the nourishment. However later findings show a different story. Bowlby discovered that attachment is characterised by behavioural and motivational patterns in children. The responses and nurturing nature of the primary caregivers of the children are what determined attachment.
Caregivers who were more responsive and nurturing to the needs of the children, developed their children’s sense of security and they know that their caregivers can be dependent on. As such they can explore the world in a more positive and reaffirmed way.
However if this responsiveness or nurturing varies by the caregiver then the children will form different types of attachment. There are four different types of attachment; secure, avoidant, ambivalent/anxious and disorganised.
In a strange situation the children see the mother as a secure base to which the child could use to facilitate to explore the strange situation. Once the mother left the strange situation the children would be distressed but when the mother came back, they went to the mother to be held and comforted. They were quickly reassured and then quickly went back to exploring the strange situation.
In terms of responsiveness and nurturing in the caregiver, the caregiver is emotionally available and extremely perceptive and responsive to the children’s needs.
A secure attachment style child would be one that expects and knows that their needs are going to be met, they know that they will be taken care of physically and emotionally. These children tend to form positive and emotionally caring relationships with others.
In a strange situation the children did not see the mother as a secure base from which they could faciltate their exploration of the strange situation. When the mother left,the children would look to their mother but often did not. And upon her return ignored her and continued to play by themselves.
In the home, the children’s parents are most likely able to physically take care of the child, but not emotionally. These children tend to express random aggression and are more clingy and demanding than those who had secure attachments.
An avoidant attachment style child would be one that protect themselves from emotional and other types of vulnerability by disassociating from emotional connections and repressing their emotions. This is due to the emotional neglect they had as a child, so they learn to be independent and shut these emotions down. They know that these emotions will not get them the emotional recognition they need so they shut them down. These children tend to form unstable and unhealthy relationships in their adult years. They try to be close emotionally to their partner but they also try to avoid emotional connections for fear of being vulnerable.
In a strange situation the children where more aware of the mother’s position whilst they were exploring. If the mother left, the children would be very upset and upon her return was very clingy. The children alternated between outbursts of anger and going limp. In both cases the children were not reaffirmed by the presence of their mother, even if she was very responsive or nurturing.
In the home, these children had mothers who were inconsistently available for the infant and when she was available she was usually busy with something else and not responsive to the children’s needs. As a result these children are very anxious, clingy and demanding at home for their mother’s attention.
An ambivalent/ anxious attachment style child acknowledges that even if their mother is their physically they would not be able to take care of them and as such they will over react their attachment to their mother by being clingy. These children grow up to form unstable relationships but instead of pushing their partner away emotionally like avoidants do, they tend to create fantasies in their minds about their relationships, they often look to their partner to satisfy their emotional hunger, they look for the partner as a crutch to fill the void in them.
This is not an usual classification of attachment styles. However later studies have shown that some infants got disorganised when their parents left the room and upon their return expression disorganised reactions. They were also not satisfied if their parents comforted them. This behaviour is often synonymous with victims of abusive homes, psychologically abusive parents or substance abusing parents.
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So what is this post about really? Well as I mention before, my friend brought this matter to my attention and throughout the week I was thinking about my past relationships, whether they be parental, friendships or romantic. But that stuff is for next week. This is all I will leave you with.
Thanks for reading, see you next week hopefully!