GET IN TO A
STATE OF MIND
PLEASE FIND “ATTACHED”- THROUGH THE CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE
Humans have an innate tendency to bond with people. Be it our friendships, relationships with partners, formations of relations mainly revolves around the attachment that we form. It all starts from the childhood. Attachment is a deep enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby,1969). Various theorists have looked into attachment and formed their own theories. However, this article will look into foundational theories that were given by Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby.
Edward John Mostyn Bowlby, simply known as John Bowlby, was a British psychologist, psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst who is known to be the father of Attachment theory. He was primarily influenced by the School of Cybernetics which is basically a school of communication.
According to him, the basic nature of attachment focuses on 3 things in infants:
This system manifests in 3 ways:
1)Seeking, monitoring and trying to maintain proximity to the attachment figure: This happens in the form of clinging, crying, calling, crawling to the attachment figure in order to establish security.
2)Using attachment figure as a secure base: Here the attachment figure provides an environment of protection and security so that the child feels safe enough to explore the environment effectively. This is called secure base. If the parents or attachment figure fail to establish the secure base, the exploration ceases.
3)Seeking attachment figure as a safe haven during moments of danger or harm: External threats or separation from attachment figure (usually mother) can trigger anxiety and proximity seeking behaviour. Thus the availability of the caregiver is not just for physical proximity but also for seeking comfort from the caregiver. This availability is defined in terms of how the child appraises it.
His work was mainly focused on delinquent homeless children the initial reaction for any traumatic reaction was protest, despair and detachment.
Like Bowlby was the father of attachment theory, well Mary Ainsworth can be called the mother, because psychology is gender neutral, right? Okay! Jokes apart. According to her, parent child interactions are likely to produce secure attachment or varieties of insecure attachment. This security is determined by the communication between caregiver and the child.
She conducted a research where she created a make belief situation, where there was a stranger, the mother and the child. This research is also called strange situation experiment. The child was there with mother in a room playing with toys. Suddenly the mother was told to go away and buy groceries.. just kidding.. no just sent out and the stranger was told to go in. The child was left alone with the stranger. Now obviously the child would start crying. The mother came back and stranger went, again mother went and stranger came and so on and so forth. According to her, one thing that was significant was the reaction of the child when he sees the mother back and that determined the kind of attachment style both engaged in. Now they are of 2 types:
Passive Children tend to faint or are too afraid to approach their mother directly. But this reunion neither relieved the distress about exploring freely nor their preoccupation with their mother’s whereabouts.
Mary Main described another form of attachment style which is called Disorganised or disoriented pattern. These responses were bizarre and contradictory. She observed that upon reunion, they froze in a place or collapsed on the floor. It is different from ambivalent style as the responses are uncanny and bizarre. It also shows up when the parental figure appears frightened as well as frightening to the child.
Secure attachment boosts self-esteem, greater competence and greater resilience and concentration. However, Insecure attachment leads to development of disorders which mainly include personality disorders later in the adulthood.
Hence it is highly important have a check into the kind of bond that you form with your child. Integrating Bowlby and Ainsworth’s theories, ideally, we all should be able to foster secure attachment with our children so that he/she gets proper environment for exploration. Too much protection will not even allow the child to explore the environment and will impede the development of the child. Lack of secure environment will not allow the child to have a protected environment and the child might engage in further risk taking behaviours. This can be further be studied along with parenting styles.
VanDijken, S. (1998). John Bowlby: His Early Life: A Biographical Journey into the Roots of Attachment Theory. London: Free Association Books
Berk, L. E. (2017). Child development. Noida, India: Pearson India.