Attachment the baby starts to discriminate between

Attachment & Deprivation:

• Focus’ on children’s early development.
• What helps and hinders emotional development, that is the ability to create bonds with other people.

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• Attachment could be defined as “a close emotional relationship between two persons characterized by mutual affection and a desire to maintain closeness” (Shaffer,1993).
• In most cases, the baby’s main attachment is to their mother (PCG), yet, infants are still able to build bonds with other people who are close to them.
• It is believed that attachments formed in early childhood are extremely important since they reflect our future social and emotional involvement with others.
• John Bowlby, who is the founding father of the theory of attachment describes attachment development into 5 Stages:
1. Initially the child responds in the same way to everyone.
2. At approximately 5 months the baby starts to discriminate between people e.g. smiles mainly to the mother
3. At approximately 7 months the baby remains close to the mother and shows ‘separation protest/anxiety’, that is, becomes upset when the mother leaves.
4. From 3 years onwards, the child recognizes the caregiver’s needs.
5. From 5 years, the child internalizes the bond he/she with the mother. In fact their bond remains strong even when the child does not see the caregiver for some time. (e.g. during school time).

Psychoanalytic approach:

• According to Freud, babies are attracted to their mother because she is the source of food as well as comfort and warmth.
• He also explains this in his first stage of his psychosexual development stages. During the oral stage (0-18 months) the infant obtains satisfaction through oral experiences such as sucking the mother’s breast.

Harry Harlow-Money’s Experiment:

• Harlow found, in his study, that attachment develops as a result of the mother providing comfort which is an innate need to touch something for emotional comfort. it is deeper then that need for food.

Attachment Types:

• Ainsworth and bell developed the strange situation test to find a way to measure what kind of attachment a child has with their caregiver.
• The child’s reaction to the stranger, the separation from the mother and the reunion with the mother all give clues as to which kind of attachment the child and mother have:

1. Secure attachment:

• Infant is distressed with mother’s departure.
• Immediately seeks contact with mother when she returns and calms down.
• Clear difference in reaction to the mother vs stranger.
Conclusion: Carer is emotionally available, sensitive and supportive; child has positive working model

2. Resistant attachment:

• Infant is insecure when the mother is present.
• Shows distress and resistance when mother returns.
• Is wary (distrustful) of the stranger.
Conclusion: Carer is inconsistent; has a negative self -image and exaggerates their emotional response to gain attention.

3. Avoidant attachment:

• Infant does not seek contact with mother.
• Shows little difference in emotion when mother leaves
• Still avoids contact with mother when she returns.
• Treats the stranger in the same way as the mother.
Conclusion: Carer is rejecting; child has a working model of themselves as unacceptable and unworthy.


• What disrupts an infant’s attachment or prevents from shaping itself?
1 Deprivation when child forms a close attachment with caregiver but is then separated.
2 Privation is when child forms a close attachment with anyone.

Effects of Deprivation:

Bowlby’s research was based on. Children who lived in a very poor orphanages and received little attention or warmth from the staff.

Maternal deprivation hypothesis (Bowlby):

• According to Bowlby, if the maternal bond is broken with the child early in life, serious effects abound on the child’s intellectual, social and emotional development which could be permanent and irreversible in some cases.
• Bowlby made another 2 important assumptions:
1. Monotropy hypothesis: infants form only one strong attachment (normally with mother). But Schaffer and Emerson’s research shows that few children have only a strong attachment to their mother: .e.g. 59% had already formed other strong attachments by 10 months.
2. the infant must form his/her attachment with the mother before the age 1-3years (initial period). Afterwards it is not possible to form an attachment to the mother caregiver.

Rutter criticized Bowlby:

• Many of the effects Bowlby attributed to deprivation were actually due to privation.
• Rutter claims that it is not true that deprivation always causes long-term difficulties. Instead, effects of deprivation depend on the reasons behind the separation. e.g. children who were separated due to housing problems or physical illness were better adjusted than those separated due to psychiatric illness.)
• Believed that negative effects of deprivation can be changed if the child settles down with a loving family. With regards to privation, results were more positive when the child stayed with adoptive family rather than returned back with biological parents.
• Hence, long-term effects of separation depend on what happens after a period of deprivation/privation.

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Last updated: July 16, 2019


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