A child needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver continuous because it is necessary for emotional and intellectual development

A child needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver continuous because it is necessary for emotional and intellectual development, and provides a template for future relationships (Bowlby, 1958). There have been numerous studies that argue positive relationships in early childhood then develop healthy relationships in later life. If a child’s first experience is of a loving relationship, then they will assume that all relationships should be the same. The aim of this essay is to evaluate the evidence for the claim that secure attachments in early childhood have positive consequences for later development. This essay will outline the different theories of attachment in psychology (Bowlby’s explanation, —) and how they have had an impact in later development. Psychologists would define a ‘secure attachment’ as having positive consequences for later development as “infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship between child and mother (or permanent mother-substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment” (Bowlby, 1951, p.11).
Bowlby (1907-1990) defines attachment as a ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human minds’ (1969, p.194. He argues, attachment is innate like imprinting because it offers the best survival advantage. If a child feels threatened or upset they will seek proximity from the attachment figure (Bowlby, 1969). Bowlby carried out a study on 44 juvenile thieves and found that they were deprived of maternal care (losing emotional care because of separation) and affection in childhood. All ‘thieves’ were interviewed for signs of affectionless psychopathy characterised by a lack of affection and empathy, 14 of the 44 ‘thieves’ could be described as affectionless psychopaths of these, 12 had experienced prolonged separation from their mothers in the first 2 years of their lives. In contrast only 5 of the remaining 30 ‘thieves’ had experienced separations. This suggests prolonged early separation/deprived caused affectionless psychopathy. Bowlby would argue that there is a ‘sensitive period’ in which a baby will form an attachment to a primary caregiver, usually the mother. If the attachment wasn’t formed within two years, it would then be hard to form it (Bowlby, 1951). Bowlby suggests that a child forms mental presentation of the relationship with their caregiver, this then serves as a template for future relationships. This is because if a child forms a positive working model of themselves and others, they will then carry these ideas into new relationships. This could show how unsecure attachments in childhood affect relationships in later relationships because people wouldn’t expect a healthy relationship as they’ve never had one. However, Bowlby may have over emphasised the role of attachment. A child’s temperament is important in the development of social behaviour. Temperament researchers suggest that some babies are more anxious and some sociable than others as a result of their genetic make-up. So, temperament differences rather than quality of attachment can explain late social behaviour.
Mary Ainsworth (–) was able to test some of Bowlbys theories empirically and expand on them too. Ainsworth suggested that once a child has discovered a secure attachment with their caregiver, they are happy to explore the world. She took this from her theory of strange situation. This was a controlled observation procedure in a laboratory where psychologists observed infants behaviour to assess the quality of a childs attachment to a caregiver. From this procedure Ainsworth identified three main types of attachment: secure, ambivalent and avoidant attachment. Secure attachment toddlers are happy to explore but seeks proximity with caregiver (secure base) and shows moderate seperation anxiety and stranger anxiety. Whereas insecure-avoidant attachment toddlers explores freely but does not seek proximity (no secure base), and insecure-resistant attachment toddler explores less and seeks greater proximity. This has offered great insight in predicting later development because secure babies typically have lasting relationships. In contrast, insecure-resistant attachment is associated with negative outcomes, for example, mental health problems. However, a childs temperament may be a coufounding variable. Ainsworth assured that the main influncnce on seperation and stranger anxiety was the quality of the attachment. But Priel and Besser, (2000) suggests that temperament (the childs genetically influenced personality) is more important influence on behaviour in the strange situation. This would challenge the validity of the strange situation because its intention is to measure the quality of attachment, not the temperament of the child. Also, another argument would state that those children described as ambivalent or avoidant in infancy can become securely attached as adults. Also, the strange situation method may be biased towards American/British culture. This is because Ainsworth, who is American, designed the experiment and based it on a British theory (Bowlby). This causes an imposed etic (trying to apply a theory designed for one culture to another). For example, the idea that a lack of pleasure on reunion indicates insecure attachment is an imposed etic. This is because in Germany, this behaviour might be seen as independent than avoidant and so is not a sign of insecurity.
However, Harris (1998) and Field (1986) disagree with the idea that attachment in infancy will shape relationships in the future. Harris believes that too much emphasis on how a child will develop as an adult should not be placed on the parents, and that nature (–) has a greater impact on a child’s development then nurture. (BB). Field —
Furthermore, the revisionist perspective suggest early attachment representations can change over time due to new experiences and so consequently may or may not have an effect on relationships in later life (Kagan, 1996; Lewis, 1997, 1999). This view is based on the idea that working models of attachment are subject to change as people enter relationships that are incompatible with their previous expectations. The prototype perspective also assumes that working models change as individuals encounter new experiences. However, this perspective assumes that relationships, whether healthy and unhealthy, are preserved and remain unchanged and continue to impact relationships in later life (Owens et al., 1995; Sroufe, Egeland and Kreutzer, 1990). So, any type of attachment in adulthood will reflect those observed in childhood.
Feirin and Rosenthal (2000) argue there is no relationship between attachment security in infancy and adolescence. Divorce was a huge mediating factor for change in attachment status, showing that the internal working model of attachment can be changed due to attachment related experiences. Thompson’s (2000) argument supports these findings because of his belief that security can remain stable if there is stability in relationships and quality of care but intervening occurrences that change these factors can cause the security to
In conclusion, if a child had developed a healthy attachment to a caregiver in infancy then the more likely they were able to form healthy relationships with teachers or partners, for example, in adulthood. However, internal working models can be changed. This is shown by factors such as parental divorce which may affect how a person develops future relationships. This shows, experiences in childhood can serve as a template for adulthood, showing that it is not inevitable that an individual’s attachment will remain stable throughout their lifespan, regardless if they’ve had a healthy upbringing.