Attachment Theory is a psychological model named by John Bowlby (1988, 2008) where he describes a specific facet of the dynamics of long-term interpersonal relationships. He believed that a baby has an innate need to seek and maintain attachment with a primary carer (Waters, Corcoran & Anafarta, 2005) and that "the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment" otherwise the baby will have significant and irreversible mental health consequences (Holmes,1993).
Attachment is 'a biological instinct to seek proximity to an attachment figure when the child senses threat or discomfort (Holmes,1993). The child expect that the attachment figure will remove threat or discomfort’ (Holmes,1993). The development of the attachment is due to the child's need for safety, security and protection, vital in infancy and childhood (Holmes,1993).
"Alarm" is the term used for activation of the attachment behavioral system caused by fear of danger (Holmes,1993). "Anxiety" is the anticipation or fear of being cut off from the parents (Holmes,1993). If the caregiver is unavailable or unresponsive, separation distress occurs (Holmes,1993). Until the age three or four, physical separation can cause anxiety and anger, followed by sadness and despair (Holmes,1993).
Secure attachment is when children feel secure in the presence of their primary caregivers (Holmes,1993). When the parent leaves the child alone, the infant feels separation anxiety (Holmes,1993). Separation anxiety is what children feel when they are separated from their primary caregivers (Holmes,1993). Anxious-ambivalent attachment occurs when the child feels separation anxiety when separated from his primary caregiver and does not feel reassured when the caregiver returns to the child (Holmes,1993). Anxious-avoidant attachment occurs when the infant avoids their parents (Holmes,1993). Disorganized attachment occurs when there is a lack of attachment behavior between the child and the parents (Holmes,1993).
Bowlby was influenced by many clinicians during the development of his theory, but specially by the psychoanalysts.
Can be summarized in four main points:
Main and Hesse (Mary & Erik,1993) found that most of the mothers of these children had suffered major losses or other trauma shortly before or after the birth of the infant and had reacted by becoming severely depressed (Parkes, 2006). In fact, 56% of mothers who had lost a parent by death before they completed high school subsequently had children with disorganized attachments (Mary & Erik,1993). Subsequently studies, whilst emphasizing the potential importance of unresolved loss, have qualified these findings (Sheri et al. 2006). For example, Solomon and George found that unresolved loss in the mother tended to be associated with disorganized attachment in their infant primarily when they had also experienced an unresolved trauma in their life prior to the loss” (Solomon & George, 2006).
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