Oh Baby! Bowlby’s Attachment Theory

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Welcome to parenthood!

Life as you know will forever be different. From the pregnancy to delivery to having a newborn in your arms.
Sleeping in late? Ha ha! That’s done… for now at least. Well sleeping at night is a joke too because more than likely your little one wants to play, be held or is more fussy.
Feedings, burping, spit-ups, funny faces, dirty diapers, coos and of course some crying all new territory for first time parents but can be a walk around the block for “been there done that” parents.

As a new mom to a baby boy, I’ve gone through so many highs and lows of emotions. Every little move he makes has me on my toes wondering are u ok? When his eyes does meet with mine, does he see how much I love him? Or does he at least feel secure or protected? As a psychology major this brings me back to the attachment theory of Bowlby.

Bowlby’s attachment theory-
Evolutionary theory of attachment (e.g. Bowlby, Harlow, Lorenz) suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others, because this will help them to survive. The infant produces innate ‘social releaser’ behaviors such as crying and smiling that stimulate innate caregiving responses from adults. The determinant of attachment is not food but care and responsiveness.

Bowlby suggested that a child would initially form only one primary attachment (monotropy) and that the attachment figure acted as a secure base for exploring the world. The attachment relationship acts as a prototype for all future social relationships so disrupting it can have severe consequences.

This theory also suggests that there is a critical period for developing an attachment (about 0 -5 years). If an attachment has not developed during this period then the child will suffer from irreversible developmental consequences, such as reduced intelligence and increased aggression. (Info from simply psychology.org)

Interesting findings huh? Of course this is a theory however it does make a lot of sense. I do believe that the nurturing of a baby in the infant stages does play a role with their mood, and overall interactions with other people.

Another psychologist, Harlow did an experiment using infant Monkeys. In this day, the experiment is considered cruel and unethical however I find the study to be an interesting expansion from Bowlby’s theory.

The experiment used two groups of monkeys that was taken away from their biological mother after birth. The study included surrogate mothers one that was made of wire and a terry cloth surrogate mother both that provided food. After each feeding the monkeys would always return to the cloth surrogate. Even when an object that posed as a threat was presented, the monkeys ran to the cloth surrogate for protection oppose to the wire surrogate.

According to the article by simplypsychology.org, “These infants were highly dependent on their mothers for nutrition, protection, comfort and socialization. What exactly, though, was the basis of the bond?

The behavioral theory of attachment would suggest that an infant would form an attachment with a carer that provides food. In contrast the evolutionary theory would suggest that infants have an innate (biological) need to touch and cling to something for emotional comfort.

This surrogate was more effective in decreasing the youngsters fear. The infant would explore more when the cloth mother was present. This supports the evolutionary theory of attachment, in that it is the sensitive response and security of the caregiver that is important (as apposed to the provision of food).

Harlow concluded that for a monkey to develop normally s/he must have some interaction with an object to which they can cling during the first months of life (critical period). Clinging is a natural response – in times of stress the monkey runs to the object to which it normally clings as if the clinging decreases the stress.”

What are your thoughts on both theories? With Harlow, it makes sense to me because when a baby is scared he or she needs to feel safe and secure. If the baby isn’t getting that connection from their caregiver, it may be possible for anxiety or trust issues to arise in social relationship as he or she gets older. It’s the act of survival.

As a new parent I will do my best to protect my son, make him feel secure while he does explore on his own during different development stages.

Thoughts?

Nikki
*disclaimer- this is My blog so I did Not use proper APA format*

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