Bowlby proposed that attachment behaviour between a mother and child happens when certain behavioural systems are actuated in the infant as a consequence of its interaction with its environment, primarily with the interaction of its mother. By encompassing earlier theories of ethology, development psychology and psychoanalysis (Bretherton, 1992), Bowlby developed his theory on ‘Attachment’. This essay looks at the development of ‘Attachment Theory’ since its introduction over four decades ago and how the research of Ainsworth and Main significantly supports Bowlby’s thesis. It also looks at Mahler’s theory of ‘Separation-Individuation’ and the importance of how positive attachment is necessary for the advancement of autonomy and
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Harlow’s research provided empirical support for Bowlby’s theory of ‘maternal deprivation’ (Berghaus, 2011). Accordingly, Bowlby argued that an infant’s needs go beyond that of nourishment to that of comfort seeking and that if attachment was not maintained the infant could become neurotic. Bowlby also identified that an insecure child could become secure if the relationship improved between infant and mother.
Advancing his theory of attachment, Bowlby concerned himself with the behaviours of a child within the first year of development. According to Crain (1992) in the pre-attachment stage, crying, babbling and smiling act as social releasers to maintain proximity with the caregiver, at this stage the child may only recognise familiar voices. In the phase 2 stage, the infant’s behaviour is directed more to a mother figure. In the phase 3 stage, the child starts to form an emotional bond with a mother figure. The child becomes aware of separation and protests when this occurs; the child may also show anxiety towards strangers and treat them with caution. Moreover, the child uses the mother figure as a secure base from which to explore their environment and maintains proximity to its mother figure by means of locomotion and gestures.
Bowlby (1969) concluded that the ‘internal working models’ developed by infants with their caregiver impacts on how they deal with