The evolutionary explanation. According to evolutionary theory behaviour and physical characteristics change and evolve with each generation. Natural selection is the way this happens. Many young are produced, not all can survive. The young with the best chance of survival will be those with characteristics that help them to cope with the demands of the environment that they live in.
Our early ancestors evolved an attachment system in order to survive. This is survival of the fittest. The survivors will pass on these characteristics to their offspring, and so on.
Bowlby was very influenced by the work of ethologists, people who study animal behaviour, especially Konrad Lorenz and his work on imprinting.
According to Lorenz imprinting is the evolved, innate ability of animals to make an attachment to the first thing they see. This is usually their biological mother. This provides protection and allows them to learn behaviour important for survival. Bowlby uses the word attachment instead of imprinting.
According to Bowlby attachment is adaptive Babies are born with an attachment system that causes them to make an attachment to adults who care for them. According to Bowlby attachment has a critical or sensitive period. Bowlby suggested that 3-6 months was a sensitive period when attachment was formed most strongly.
Attachment is reciprocal. Adults also have an innate drive to care for babies and children. How babies look and behave activate caregiving behaviours from adults. These are called social releasers: they release caregiving behaviour. Babies are born to make attachments, adults are ‘hardwired’ to care for babies and children.
Monotropy and multiple attachments. Infants become most attached to those who respond most sensitively to their needs leading to ..... One special relationship (monotropy). Infants form multiple attachments in the form of a hierarchy.
The one special relationship is internalised and leads to an internal working model. This internal working model represents the infants understanding and expectations of close emotional relationships for the rest of its life.
Early attachment relationships determine emotional relationships as an adult. Emotionally secure infants go on to be emotionally secure, trusting and socially confident adults. There is continuity between early and later relationships.
Answer the following questions: Mary has noticed that her young baby does things to attract her attention, such as babbling, smiling and crying. How does Bowlby’s explanation of attachment explain these behaviours? (4 marks) You have been invited to give a talk to the local mother-and-baby group. Using ideas from Bowlby’s theory of attachment what advice might you give the mothers about how they could form a strong mother-child-bond? (4 marks)