Attachment theory

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An introduction to attachment theory

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Attachment theory

  1. 1. Attachment TheoryJohn Bowlby 1907-1990
  2. 2. Maternal deprivation This presentation outlines attachment theory, the terms ‘mother’, ‘parent’ and ‘primary caregiver’ are used throughout this presentation and reflect the nature of the studies which are referred to. The notion of ‘maternal deprivation’ should be considered carefully for seminar 6
  3. 3. Bowlby’s theory – early conceptsdrawn from biology Attachment behaviour adaptive – has survival value Attachment behaviours directed towards one person in particular – the mother – monotropy (Birch, 1997)Bowlby’s views on monotropy are controversial – find some evidence which contradicts this notion
  4. 4. Definitions of Attachment ‘An attachment is a bond or tie between an individual and an attachment figure’ (Prior and Glaser, 2006. p 15) ‘The bond that develops between an infant and caregiver’ (Egeland, 2004) Cassidy & Shaver (1999) emphasise that attachment is a pattern of emotional and behavioural interaction which develops over time as the infant and caregiver interact, especially in response to the infant’s needs for attention and comfort
  5. 5. Characteristics of attachment Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1980) suggested that there are four defining features of the attachment bond: 1. proximity maintenance (wanting to be physically close to the attachment figure) 2. separation distress (separation from the caregiver causes upset and distress to the child) 3. safe haven (retreating to the caregiver when sensing danger) 4. secure base (the provision of a secure and dependable base for the child to explore the world)
  6. 6. Contingent responsiveness It is from this secure base that the child gains the confidence to gradually explore the wider environment, knowing that the attachment figure is still available for protection and security. This requires what is described as ‘contingent responsiveness’ - the ‘sensitive-enough mother’ who understands when the infant is becoming anxious or experiencing danger and provides reassurance through responsiveness (Ainsworth et al, 1986)
  7. 7. Difficulties with responsivenessSome parents may: Chronically over stimulate their child Be inconsistent with responsiveness Neglect their children’s needsConsider factors which may influence these situations
  8. 8. Styles of Attachment Children develop and display either one of the two basic attachment styles which are termed as ‘secure’ or ‘insecure’ (Porter, 2003) The quality and sensitivity of the mother-infant face-to-face interaction from as early as a few months through and beyond the first year of life has been shown to predict attachment style (Smith et al, 2003).
  9. 9. Secure attachment Children who experience warm, sensitive and responsive parenting or early care they will develop a secure attachment (Golding, 2008) This provides children with the opportunity to develop positive expectations about future relationships; to develop trust in others Self-confidence which enables the child to feel safe and explore the wider world (Bomber, 2008) Child develops basic trust that others will be helpful and supportive when asked (Delaney, 2009)
  10. 10. Insecure attachment Identified by features of instability, including ambivalent behaviour, preoccupation, avoidant responses and a lack of co-operative communication in the mother-child relationship (Golding, 2008; Porter, 2003).
  11. 11. Insecure attachment Thought to occur when the attachment figure (mother) is not emotionally available to the infant on a significant and repeated basis (Ayers et al, 2000) Child lacks of confidence to explore the wider world Are thought to not feel safe enough with the attachment figure to truly express their negative emotions towards this primary caregiver Is believed to influence future behaviours, especially the child’s ability to form other positive attachments
  12. 12. Patterns (or styles) ofAttachment – Mary Ainsworth(1967, 1974) ‘The StrangeSituation’ Secure Avoidant resistant-ambivalent Disorganised
  13. 13. Avoidant attachment pattern The child expresses an emotional need such as physical closeness. The parent(s) experiences difficulty in responding and withdraws (Golding, 2008) The mother is perceived as less sensitive, or neglectful, of the emotional needs of the child, displaying what is termed ‘rejection syndrome’ (Geddes, 2008) The child becomes conscious of the mothers withdrawal behaviour and tries to prevent its re-occurrence through passive and withdrawn behaviour with minimal display of any emotional distress (Heard, 1987) During childhood, the child becomes increasingly self- reliant and independent, because he/she has experienced their parents as resentful, rejecting. This fear of rejection creates an inner-struggle for the child between the desire for and the dread of physical acceptance (Hopkins, 1987)
  14. 14. Ambivalent-resistant pattern Emerges when parents are inconsistent and insensitive to the child’s needs The child tries to compensate for the unpredictability of the parents by maximising their use of attachment behaviour, such as clinginess and, crying being over-demanding. Some of these children will become extremely distressed at the absence of the primary caregiver(s), but will behave ambivalently on the reunion by a combination of seeking contact and interaction, but rejecting it when it is offered The child can quickly fluctuate from anger and resistance to total clinginess and dependence (Ding & Littleton, 2005)
  15. 15. Disorganised and/ordisorientated pattern The infants concerned show undirected movements and seem confused or apprehensive about approaching their parents (Main and Solomon, 1990) Can be associated with neglect or feeling fearful of the parent Golding, 2008) As a consequence, the child becomes confused - child is naturally drawn to want comfort from the actual source of the fear. Hence, the infant may move towards the mother but keep their eye-gaze averted and express unexpected and unrelated emotions (Bee, 1992) It has been claimed that 80% of children with disorganised attachments have been maltreated, and as such have an inability to use caregivers for soothing (Burnell and Archer, 2003) A minority will suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder (Van Spedoorn & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2003)
  16. 16. Reactive Attachment Disorder Diagnostic Manual – Intellectual Disability (DM-ID, 2007) describes RAD as a clinical syndrome characterised by a ‘severe’ disruption in the development and expression of emotional attachments. So much so, that the severity affects all areas of the child’s development and results in him/her having an lack of concern for maintaining close relationships with any adult caregiversThere are thought to be two forms of attachment disorder: Inhibited/reactive - failure by the child to initiate or respond to most social interactions, and is manifested by excessively inhibited responses (Prior & Glaser, 2006) Disinhibited - characterised by indiscriminate sociability and excessive familiarity with relative strangers. Although, effective in getting his/her needs met, the child is not selective from whom he/she receives comfort and re- assurance (Prior & Glaser, 2006)
  17. 17. References Ainsworth, M. D. S. Bell. S. M. and Stayton, D. J. (1974) Infant mother attachment and social development: @socialisation as a product of reciprocal responsiveness to signals’, in M. P. M. Richards (ed) The integration of a child into a social world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Archer, C. and Burnell, A. Eds. (2003) Trauma, Attachment and Family Permanence: fear can stop you loving, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ayers, H., Clarke, D. & Murray, A. (2000). Perspectives on Behaviour: A Practical Guide to Effective Interventions for Teachers – Second Edition. London, David Fulton Publishers Bee, H. (1992). The Developing Child – Sixth Edition. New York, Harper Collins College Publishers Bomber, L.M. (2008). Inside I’m Hurting: Practical Strategies For Supporting Children With Attachment Difficulties In Schools. London, Worth Publishing Bowlby, J, (1969). Attachment and Loss, Vol. 1 Attachment. New York, Basic Books & Hogarth Press Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and Loss, Vol. 2: Separation: Anxiety & Anger. New York, Basic Books Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and Loss, Vol. 3: Loss: Sadness & Depression. New York, Basic Books
  18. 18. References Cassidy, J. & Berlin, L. (1994). The Insecure Ambivalent Pattern of Attachment: Theory and Research. Child Development, 65, 971-991 Delaney, M. (2009). Teaching The Unteachable: Practical Ideas To Give Teachers Hope And Help When Behaviour Management Strategies Fail. London, Worth Publishing Limited Diagnostic Manual – Intellectual Disability: A textbook of Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in Persons with Intellectual Disability (2007). New York, National Association for the Dually Diagnosed (NADD) Ding, S. & Littleton, K. (2005). Children’s Personal and Social Development. London, Blackwell Publishing Egeland, B. (2004). Attachment Based Interventions and Prevention Programs for Young Children. Encyclopaedia on Early childhood Development. Centre of Excellence for Early childhood development, Minnesota
  19. 19. References Geddes, H. (2008). Attachment In the Classroom: the Links Between Children’s Early Experience, Emotional Well-being And Performance In School. London, Worth Publishing Golding, K. (2008). Nurturing Attachments: Supporting Children who are Fostered or Adopted. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Hardy, L. T. (2007). Attachment Theory and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Theoretical Perspectives and Treatment Implications. Journal of Clinical and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 20, 1, 27 – 39 Heard, D. (1987). The Relevance of Attachment Theory To Child Psychiatric Practice: An Update, 28, 1, 25 – 28 Main, M. & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying disorganized/disoriented infants during the Ainsworth Strange Situation. In M. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti & M. Cummings (Eds), Attachement in the pre-school years, pp. 121 – 160. Chocago: University of Chicago Press.
  20. 20. References Prior, V. & Glaser, D. (2006). Understanding Attachment and Attachment Disorders: Theory, Evidence and Practice. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Snoufe, L. A. (1995). Emotional Development: The Organisation of Emotional Life in the Early Years. New York, Cambridge University Press Van Spendoorn, M. H. & Bakermans- Kranenburg, M. J. (2003). Attachment disorders and disorganised attachment. Similar and Different. Attachment and Human Development, 53, 313 – 320
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